Carven Tours Florence

The invitation to Guillaume Henry’s first Carven men’s show in Florence yesterday as Pitti’s guest men’s designer was kind of a giveaway. It was an illustration by France’s Sempé, celebrated for his comic drawings in The New Yorker and Paris Match, of a French waiter or garçon leaping at full speed in his full-length apron, balancing a dinner platter high above his head. Held at the velodrome of Florence’s Club Sportivo 1870, this was a sundown show with lace-tablecloth-adorned tables sprawled out across the grassy field piled with Tuscan aperitivo treats and jugs of country wine in straw baskets. When the frantic Italian sportscaster got on the loudspeaker to announce the event, the fashion crowd turned into local supporters. Carven’s garçons are in their third season for Spring 2013, but Henry says this show feels only like the second outing. “The first one was just to get the essentials of the house vocabulary in place,” he said. “The Carven man is a bit of a poet, he’s spontaneous, awkward, aesthetic, a man, or a boy, you might want to talk to, a next-door neighbor you’ve always wanted to meet. Inspired, but not a conceptualist, not too intellectual.”

As carven’s racing waiters—a French tradition—sped toward the imaginary finish line, Henry’s guys strolled by in the boxy, boyish looks which have quickly become the house’s menswear signature. For spring, it’s bold colors and shorts. And on the subject of shorts, Henry gets them right. They’re short—as in a square, not a rectangle—with minimal detail in shirt weights like a pair of boxers. Some are worn with bright, patterned, untucked shirts, perhaps with a matching tie, or bright, space-dye colored sweaters. And then there were patterned shorts with matching jackets—oh la la! Colorblocked coats showed off Carven’s bright, sophisticated palette. Henry hits the mark with bright yellow, peachy pink-orange, and turquoise shades, invariably tempered with basics. His colors are believable: wearable menswear. And so are the shapes. A band collar shirt with a simple patch pocket in a contrasting color is as fun and easy-does-it as a walk in the park.

At race’s end, a brass band made up of retired Italian military men culled from all parts of Italy rushed in dressed in fatigues and feathered caps to perform a few upbeat numbers, while a man posing as the mayor of Florence wearing the Italian tricolor over his suit joined Henry to present a giant cup to the winning waiter. A good time was had by all as we passed out of the stadium and into the balmy Florence evening.