remy de la mauviniere/associated press


Looks from the fall 2007 collection by Olivier Theyskens for Nina Ricci.


Paris fashion week entered its final stretch Sunday with Belgian designer Olivier Theyskens making his highly anticipated debut at Nina Ricci, drawing a crowd at the Tuileries gardens in front of the Louvre.

Guests gathered in a white tent with a large opening in the back that gave them a view of trees shrouded in artificial mist and afforded Sunday strollers a glimpse of the show inside.

remy de la mauviniere/associated press

The romance continued on the catwalk, as models paraded in feather-light angora knits and swirling evening gowns in evanescent shades of gray and tangy lemon yellow.

“For the first collection, I didn’t really want to open the palette too much,” the soft-spoken designer told reporters after the show.

Theyskens has been absent from the Paris catwalks for a year, after his previous employer Rochas shut its ready-to-wear division, leaving the critically acclaimed designer without a job.

Even before his official debut, the 30-year-old scored a major coup by dressing Hollywood actress Reese Witherspoon during the awards ceremony season, culminating with the widely praised purple gown she wore to the Oscars. That dress, like the outfits shown on the catwalk, was inspired by the twisting lines of the bottle for Ricci’s classic fragrance L’Air du Temps.

Theyskens has drawn criticism in the past for focusing too heavily on stratospherically priced eveningwear, and duly peppered his autumn-winter collection with practical alternatives for everyday dressing.

A fluffy grey angora sweater with diagonal ribs was paired with white skinny jeans and white boots, while a short slate silk dress with a rolled collar and hem was casually slung over a long-sleeved T-shirt.

But things really took off with the ballgowns, which included a draped yellow bustier dress with a train whose fabric looked like wrinkled paper, but on close inspection turned out to be a flower-patterned brocade.

“I wanted to show how you can make something look light and flying, almost like wings,” Theyskens said.