What Women Re­ally Want

Nina Ricci’s cre­ative di­rec­tor has an eye for el­e­gance. Guil­laume Henry tells Melissa Twigg about his plans to shake up the French fash­ion house

Hong Kong Tatler - - Style | Profile -

Af­ter re­viv­ing the French house of Car­ven in just five years, Guil­laume Henry has been tasked with bring­ing a fresh iden­tity to the her­itage brand Nina Ricci ar­ven was a girl; Nina Ricci is a woman. And I think I’m a man now, which maybe I wasn’t five years ago.” So says 37-year-old Guil­laume Henry about his de­par­ture from the niche ex-cou­ture house for the renowned French fash­ion brand Nina Ricci, where he be­came cre­ative di­rec­tor in 2014. “I look at my­self and my [Car­ven] col­leagues five years ago—we were like kids. But be­cause of the pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ences we’ve had, we’ve all changed so much.”

If Henry was im­ma­ture, he was pretty tal­ented with it. Over the Paris na­tive’s five years at Car­ven, he trans­formed the dated cou­ture house into a sexy, con­tem­po­rary brand that dressed French women (and any­one else who wanted to look French) in that louche cool-girl way that’s one part rock ’n’ roll, one part high fash­ion. So it was no sur­prise that when Peter Cop­ping left Nina Ricci in late 2014, the ail­ing brand im­me­di­ately poached the hot young de­signer (who had pre­vi­ously worked at Givenchy and Paule Ka) in the hope that he would in­ject some of that youth­ful dar­ing and glam­our into Nina Ricci— and bring with him his il­lus­tri­ous client list, which in­cluded Bey­oncé, Ri­hanna, Is­abelle Hup­pert, Kristin Scott Thomas and Inès de la Fres­sange.

It was with bated breath that the fash­ion pack awaited his first col­lec­tion in March 2015. So­phis­ti­cated and fem­i­nine, it didn’t dis­ap­point, of­fer­ing well-cut coats and flat­ter­ing dresses that were ma­ture enough to please the tra­di­tional Nina Ricci cus­tomer, along­side fringed jack­ets and se­quined suits that promised to bring in a new, younger clien­tele.

“Ooh la la, your first col­lec­tion is al­ways very stress­ful,” says Henry in his light French ac­cent over cof­fee at the Land­mark Man­darin Ori­en­tal. “You need to ex­press your own vi­sion but also be faith­ful to the aes­thetic of the brand. For Nina Ricci, I wanted it to be del­i­cate and so­phis­ti­cated, but not to push any one look too far. For the sec­ond sea­son, I knew I had more lib­erty to ex­press my feel­ings. One is­sue was that I don’t like girli­ness—and Nina Ricci is fa­mous for be­ing a very fem­i­nine brand. But then I thought about it and I re­alised that I have never be­lieved that fem­i­nin­ity is about sweet­ness or pink or be­ing cute. In fact, I be­lieve think­ing like that is an in­sult to strong women with unique style. Fem­i­nin­ity can come in many forms, but ul­ti­mately it’s just a cel­e­bra­tion of be­ing fe­male.”

In­spired by his muse, the late Ger­man ac­tress Romy Schneider, Henry’s spring/sum­mer 2016 col­lec­tion is un­doubt­edly glam­orous, but in a very grown-up way. Crit­ics have called it sen­sual, sin­ful and quintessen­tially French. Tex­ture is the word on ev­ery­one’s lips, with short, al­most bondage-like pa­tent leather dresses, airy sheer blouses, glossy os­trich leather skirts and feath­ered satin dresses—the kinds of clothes that make you want to go out and have a mar­tini at the Hemingway Bar in Paris.

“For me, the la­bel is about el­e­gance, which means it can also be a lit­tle tough,” says Henry. “It’s an ex­pres­sion of beauty but also vul­ner­a­bil­ity, and strong but not ag­gres­sive. It’s im­por­tant to have just the right mix­ture of good and bad. Isn’t that what women are al­ways look­ing for?”

all grown up

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