Sunday, 4 October 2009

Paris Fashion Week: Lanvin

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Albar Elbaz certainly knows how to put on a show. His Spring 2010 RTW show was both a celebration of austere elegance and a comment on the modern woman. 

Elbaz claims that his show was inspired by his customers: high-powered women who run the world by day, but "collapse" when they come home. His collection was asymmetrical, often with one shoulder or limb bared, despite the protective envelope of the rest of the garment, often broad swaths of cloth barely controlled by pleating and draping. None of the silhouettes in this collection were new: tulip skirts, kimono-style dresses, jumpsuits, broad shoulders. We've seen these before. However, Elbaz has repackaged them in an intelligent concept. His emphasis was on the horizontal: each outfit came with a belt. By bisecting his modern women, he showed how her intellectual and sexual sides were, by unfortunate necessity, separate, but had every chance of forming a beautiful whole.

The materials used were, of course, stunning. According to, Elbaz used polyester for the incredible jumpsuits and invented a new way of quilting. Some dresses had a chiffon over-layer. There were several leather dresses--a material tough but pliant, again, a comment on his customer--that showed lots of originality and lots and lots of sequins. In addition, the show had some interesting styling choices: there were several transparent tops (a remark on vulnerability?), and dresses layered over each other, creating a remarkable whole.

A lot of the Spring 2010 RTW shows have been beating us over the head with nostalgia, like crazy neoconservatives and a recession couldn't have told us that the 80s were back. Elbaz's collection shows the mark of a great designer: he's taken several shapes that, in many lesser hands were tired and gleefully frumpy, and injected a much-needed shot of intelligence and grace.

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