It was a game of ‘spot the label’ at Carven’s show on Thursday morning. Pipe-cleaner legs peeped out from many a Carven taffeta puffball skirt on our row. Near the door, a PR girl made the tricky midriff of a red lace cut-out Carven dress work through the simple addition of a black tank. Add in a map-print dress here, a lace-inset silk blouse there, and at least one eye-catching griffin sweater, and the result was a show with a higher brand presence amid the audience perhaps even than at Jonathan Saunders.
In six short seasons, Henry has resurrected a dormant house and vaunted it into one of the most-worn brands at Paris fashion week. That record will only strengthen on the basis of the AW12 collection, which both enriched and stayed true to the Carven template. In other words: Alexa Chung will love it.
The show opened with a series of neat skirt suits and dresses in paisley wool. Henry quickly established that next-season’s little Carven dress has a bell-shaped skirt and closely tailored bodice with a keyhole slit. Sleeveless or long-sleeved, in black velvet or goldenrod Broderie Anglaise, it’s sure to fly off the rails.
If the early looks brought to mind the tapestries that once hanged on drafty church walls, the next series looked to the towering cathedrals themselves (ecclesiastical themes were readily accessed thanks to our setting at the Couvent des Cordeliers). Suede and velvet pieces laser-cut with rose-window motifs were inspired by Notre Dame de Paris, Henry said backstage. When the heavy velvets were layered over Gallic red, white and blue stripes, the effect echoed a tighter stained-glass print that ran over silk shirts.
Next came skirts, shirts and dresses printed with excerpts from Hieronymous Bosch’s medieval paintings.
‘Frankly speaking, when you look at his paintings, it’s weird and sometimes even scary,’ Henry said after the show. ‘But we made it more fun. ‘