Deconstructing Dance at Nina Ricci

Martin Bureau/Getty

In what could be called the pre-show to the Nina Ricci Autumn/Winter 2013/14 catwalk, guests gathered in the great hall of Paris Fashion Week – a giant tent erected in the Tuileries named the Espace Ephémère Tuileries – as if for the theater, perched on black benches doused in red light, their chatter mingling with the eclectic and sometimes chaotic sounds from the Philip Glass composition “Two Movements for Two Pianos,” which provided the dreamlike and occasionally urban mood for this elegant show, inspired by dance and presented to convey the feeling of a performance.

Models gathered at the end of the runway after the presentation like a theater troupe ready to take a bow.

Placed in the middle of the catwalk were two grand pianos. And before the show began Thursday night, two pianists sat down in long black gowns to play the composition by Glass.

“Dancers are instruments, like a piano the choreographer players,” read the quote in the show notes by George Balanchine which were placed on each bench before the show.

Indeed. Peter Copping, the British designer who has served as the house’s artistic director since 2009, took the statement and applied it to a dancer’s wardrobe.

He created an exceptionally elegant collection, at times fragile and reminiscent of the fragments in a dancer’s stage wardrobe, using materials that might barely cover their agile bodies. At other moments, the look was urban and sophisticated and included cocktail outfits for the imaginary guests that might come to see such a show.

There were also cozy creations with lots of use of wool and edgy Parka coats with faux fur collars wrapped tight like necklaces around the neck, giving a beautiful twist on dancers and their gear, from the stage and show time to the warm up room and beyond to the streets as they travel to reach the studio.

(“Sophisticated and elegant. The silhouette evokes the classic dancer’s disciplined grace. Long and lean, she holds her head high,” the notes for the show stated. ‘A bustier. A clean neck line. A corset in trompe l’oeil. Flared skirts and coats recall the volume of a ballerina’s skir. Functionality playing into urban design of workout gear.”)

The first look that Copping sent out was an elegant pencil silhouette for an imaginary woman named Catherine. She was dressed in a cashmere and merino tight black sweater cropped at the waist, revealing a stretch wool skirt in off-white that pulled across her dancer-like legs in a sexy retro glam look.

Then followed Aline in a Duchess satin dress in black, with a tight black pencil skirt and arms left bare from cropped sleeves and a protective shoulder design rounding around the collar bones.

Chiharu, Bette, Zlata, Marte read the names of the women who followed down the runway, in a series of looks inspired by a dancer’s wardrobe from tutus to leotards and billowing above-the-knee skirts.

Dancer-like black headbands pulled hair back from the face. There were knitted body suits and materials used by dancers such as rib knits that ran throughout the collection, which came in a pale palette of colors and sharp blacks and whites.

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Copping also embraced the imaginary guest, with the finale of elegant cocktail wear which harked back to a glamorous age with two Radzimir long black dresses and a series of other unconventional dresses in every type of silhouette, going from wide bag-like looks to slinky satin dresses with plunging necklines.

“To some extent the point of departure of dance is a cliché but I wanted to deconstruct the medium and was inspired by going back through the Nina Ricci archives and looking at past campaigns,” Copping told The Daily Beast backstage. “The cocktail dresses were for the people watching.”

Copping played around with different necklines and hemlines that went up and down, sometimes above the knee and sometimes hitting the ankles. He began by revealing just a neck then collar bones in Chiharu’s red wool jacket and skirt, then one shoulder in Marta’s tuxedo jacket and long satin skirt. Then the necklines went higher, going into a roll neck top for Bette’s merino wool sweater and long wool skirt in an outfit which was figure-hugging and also cozy and warm.