FOR THE RECORD:
Missing fashion credits: In the Jan. 25 Image section, credits were omitted for the cover look. They are: Ralph Lauren dress ($2,598) at select Ralph Lauren stores, ; Kotur clutch ($348) at Neiman Marcus, Beverly Hills; Azzaro earrings (price upon request) at ; vintage ring ($132) at Trina Turk boutique; Lia Sophia cuff ($350) at . —
But on a cold, crisp Paris day last October, I found it at a showroom on Rue du Faubourg St. Honorè, where Vanessa Seward, artistic director of the under-the-radar French fashion house of Loris Azzaro, was hosting a presentation of her spring collection.
I walked up the mirrored staircase and took a seat on a white leather couch. A model came out wearing a strapless silk tiered mini-dress in the lemony colors of the macarons on the table in front of me. On her feet were ribbon-tied sandals with plexiglass degrade heels like the shoes I dreamed of wearing as a little girl.
The looks kept coming, more slowly than on a runway because there were only two models. But that was fine. It gave my mind a chance to wander from the languorous white gown with the house's signature three-ring, crystal-trimmed neckline to a sultry disco in St. Tropez; from the turquoise and sea-green draped, one-shoulder dress to the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean. I imagined the model floating on a half shell.
Azzaro opened his couture house in 1967, but his heyday was in the hedonistic 1970s, when Sophia Loren, Marisa Berenson, Raquel Welch, Brigitte Bardot and Tina Turner came to him for Lurex knits, sequin sheaths and slinky gowns. "He was the Parisian Halston," says Seward, 39, brought on to continue his legacy, after working at Chanel and with Tom Ford at Yves Saint Laurent. "When women wore his clothes, it was like getting plastic surgery. Their waists got smaller, they had longer legs."
Seward is the kind of person you can't help but want to be friends with, which makes Azzaro that much more attractive. Married to groovy record producer-musician Bertrand Burgalat, she's charmingly girlish, but her clothes transform her into a bombshell, which leaves hope for the rest of us. It's no wonder Diane Lane, Kate Winslet, Nicole Kidman and other Hollywood lovelies are so taken with her designs, which are sold at Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Net-a-porter.com.
"I don't do runway shows because I know if you do them every season you have to make radical changes," Seward says. "You can't propose an evolution of style."
That may be why this collection struck such a chord. It wasn't just about one moment; it was about the past and the future and the fantasy of springtime. "I designed it over a few rainy summer days in the Pyrenees," Seward says. "I dreamt about the sunsets on the beach, cocktails in different colors. What I didn't have I dreamt about."
She was onto something. Whether they're by Azzaro, Ralph Lauren, Tadashi, James Coviello or Trina Turk, these spring clothes are arriving just in time. To wear or just to look at, they offer the relief that fashion is so good at providing: a shot of color, a hint of seduction, a chance to escape.