Delirious fluttering romance has never appealed much to us, which explains why we can't stand Jane Austen or expansive Edwardian romances, but we do love a knowing reinterpretation of the genre hence our affection for steam punk and Dodie Smith's dark commedic romance I Capture The Castle.
Olivier Theyskens too seems to share our desire to make something more of the magic of Edwardiana. But Nina Ricci's Spring 2009 collection isn't simply in the vein of over done gowns and dusty organza, there is deeper and more haunting history of Theyskens' work here. As in I Capture The Castle, many of the hallmarks of the romantic era are there, brooding beauties, gauzy flights of fancy, and yet there is a sense of decay and displacement as neither the collection nor the novel are in the proper timeline required to be taken at face value. The backdrop is right for romance but the time, place, and viewers are not. And therein lies the strength of the Spring 2009 collection. We have the woody colors, the billowing sleeves, and then we have bared legs ripping us out of any hoped for historical place holder.
If the construction were not so impeccable on the fly away dress panels connecting the hose we would wonder at a kind of deliberate deconstruction at work in order to show the legs in the midst of otherwise full gowns. It gives the sense of a tearing away at the original to create something new, not a simulacrum of an age gone by, but a sad renewed sense of the "now" even as the world (as is the case of Smith's protagonists in I Capture the Castle) moves on without them. Brooding, sad, and deeply romantic Theyskens' collection for Nina Ricci is hardly commercial enough to appeal to many. It doesn't veer enough to the side of authentic period romance to make sense to anyone that isn't just a little twisted in their own interpretations. We imagine Olivier Theyskens as something of Dodie Smith's Cassandra Mortmain, living between two worlds, a genius without any appropriate ending.