In just five years, Guillaume Henry transformed Carven—a storied but sleepy French fashion house of old-school couture—into the cool girl’s label du jour. Today’s announcement of his appointment as creative director at Nina Ricci then comes as less of a surprise than a thrilling development in the designer’s already impressive CV. And as for what this means for Ricci? Henry has notably already used his final collection at Carven to prove that he is a deft hand with lace—which bodes well for his impending arrival at a house that, known for its nostalgic femininity, is all about the textile. The effortless, gimmick-free silhouette he developed while at Carven (a full skirt with trim midline cut around two inches above the natural waist) is about as universally flattering as fashion gets.
Here, we’ve whipped up a cheat sheet for what you need to know about Henry and the transition:
1. The 35-year-old French native studied at the Institut Français de la Mode (in English!) and was taken on at Givenchy immediately following his graduation, under creative director Julien Macdonald. Henry was also on the design team that anonymously presented the houses’s collections before Riccardo Tisci became creative director. Henry later left to begin working at the French sportswear label Paule Ka in 2009—leaving for Carven that same year.
2. Henry was the first designer to helm the relaunched Carven in 2009—the 69-year-old label relinquished its membership of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture and refashioned itself as ready-to-wear under Henry’s direction—and in one season more than doubled its distribution. (After early success at Barney’s and Net-a-Porter, subsequent growth became something closer to exponential.) Henry also managed to both take a couture house into the contemporary market (and price point) and return Carven designs to red carpets across the globe on style setters as varied in style, age, and body type as Beyoncé, Rihanna, Isabelle Huppert, Kristin Scott Thomas, and Inès de la Fressange.
3. The designer is less than sold on the obsession with the mythic idea of Gallic girl cool, citing instead paragons of cinema like Fanny Ardant, Catherine Deneuve, and Jeanne Moreau when it comes to iconic French style: “I don’t know if that Parisian girl even still exists,” the designer told Vogue’s Lynn Yaeger in 2010, “I mean, stand on a corner in Paris for fifteen minutes and all you see is the stupid denim . . . I think the American girl maybe has a more Parisian aesthetic now. Maybe the Carven French girl is in New York!”
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