As I exited Rochas’ stifling show venue, I bumped into two (of my bitchier) friends, who rattled off a flurry of names—Prada, Kenzo, Dries Van Noten—that they thought the collection too closely resembled. And they were right. Marco Zanini’s debut runway show for the French label promoted edgy dowdiness, with ubiquitous cinched waists, wide-shouldered jackets tucked into pants or shorts, and socks worn with 40s-style sandals. This is well-known Prada territory, while the tropical prints, hemp-soled shoes and panama hats brought to mind Kenzo’s travelogues. And the styling and color palette indeed recalled Dries.

But there is another way to decipher the summer wardrobe. Here is a little-known half-Italian, half-Swedish designer who, after a promising but ill-fated stint at Halston in New York, and Versace before that, took over from the cult of Olivier Theyskens. Instead of making a grand statement, he’s come up with mostly feminine, commercial clothes, which he tried to spice up with awkward styling and kitschy colors.

There is a laudable modesty to Zanini’s approach, and the sunglasses and knitted underwear were winning propositions. But if he wants to make Rochas the fashion leader it once was, he will have to work on a more original formula.

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