It may seem curious that Lars Nilsson, a 35-year-old Swede with a meticulous education in both men's tailoring and French haute couture, has come to save American fashion, but indeed he has. As the new head designer at Bill Blass -- which had stumbled under the direction of Steven Slowik -- he's had a soothing effect on the New York fashion world, well summed up by Judy Peabody, a longtime Blass client. "And then Lars appeared," she says simply, "and all was well."
Nilsson's September 10 show at the New York Public Library, with its slim pantsuits, shirtdresses, and beaded evening gowns, was clean, polished, and classically American. "Lars is following in Bill's tradition, and at the same time he's making it his own," says Anna Wintour, who is such a fan of Nilsson's that she chose to wear one of his skirts to the VH1/Vogue Fashion awards in October. "He does adhere to the things I believe in," says Blass. "For years it was unfashionable to have wearable clothes. What's the point of doing them if people can't wear them?" In a nod to his couture roots (he served in the houses of Chanel, Lacroix, and Dior), Nilsson emphasizes quality and detail and exquisite fabrics. "He's about the hands!" André Leon Talley raves. "When you have worked with the highest level of fabrics and of work," Nilsson explains, "you simply cannot go back."
"I just hope," Blass adds, "he'll be there as long as I was."