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.

Rochas: Subtle Farmers’ Wives

Godfrey Deeny
September 29th, 2010 @ 9:23 PM - Paris

Many designers in Europe have been showing peasant dresses on their catwalks, though nobody with such assurance and inventiveness as Marco Zanini at Rochas, whose latest collection for the Paris house was the latest reminder of this Italian creator’s considerable potential.

“Les Merveilles Nuages,” or Marvelous Clouds, read the lettering on one silk shirt in this collection sent out in a looming north Paris atelier on Wednesday, Sept. 29. Under Zanini, a once sleepy house is gathering steam, a quiet sensation winning attention and business.

As a designer, Zanini is a little like a jazz musician, i.e., he knows fashion’s visual scores so well he can play stylistic variations on them. His selection of peasant dresses were sculpted at the torso, and gathered below the waist in ways that were that bit smarter and fresher than any of the rural styles seen on scores of runways.

For next spring, Rochas offers women widow dresses cut below the knee and worn with black knee socks, flat front hemp jackets or suits in naïve architectural prints. Inspired by Sweden, though with a dose of 18th century France thrown in, the collection was frumpy with an edge, high-end subsistence farmer chic. The matronly debut of the collection was succeeded by a youthful élan, as if the farmer’s daughter had married the son of the local chateau and then began entertaining in floral silk pajama in limes or Gustavian blue and dancing at swish balls in crushed ecru satin gowns. Every look was strong and convincing, as Zanini cut and draped and edited the fabric, working a theme he knew inside out. Raised in Milan, Zanini has an Italian father and Swedish mother.

With blue rimmed eyes and shiny arty hairpins, the models looked elegantly hip, effortlessly chic, exactly the sort of image that Rochas is happy to be winning under the sure hand and eye of Zanini. There is now a buzz about Rochas, suggesting Zanini might be about to become the next fashion star.

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