Louis Vuitton Maid’s Game, Chanel’s True Grit, and Julien David’s Clever Debut

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Published March 10, 2011

A LOOK FROM LOUIS VUITTON (LEFT); KATE MOSS CLOSES THE SHOW, CIGARETTE IN HAND

It was International Women’s Day on Tuesday, but you wouldn’t have known that yesterday morning at the Louis Vuitton show, where Marc Jacobs toyed with fetishism in a faux-naughty way, incorporating uniform elements which called to mind such disparate influences as The Night Porter, the pristine white collars of children’s book character Eloise, and the black-and-white uniforms of parlour maids.

No expense was spared on this spectacle, starting with the made-to-measure tent posted in the Louvre’s Cour Carrée, covered in puffed-out black plastic and surrounded by a forest of black balloons. If that wasn’t sinister enough, a contingent of LV white-aproned maids employed their feather dusters nonsensically up and down the exterior staircase. Inside was a spacious, but somehow claustrophobic, scene, featuring a gleaming black diamond-tiled marblesque floor with a bank of four gilt elevators, modelled after those at London’s Claridges. This meant the backstage area was under that floor, bunker-style! We were all seated in the pitch dark, waiting for the show to begin. And it did—pretty much at 10 am sharp, because, as we all know, Marc Jacobs caught a lot of flack one season when his eponymous show began very late in New York. Since then, although it’s understood that shows in Paris normally begin a half hour after the stated time, LV has made show promptness one of its core values.

67 models slowly beamed up, ’30s style, wearing a mix of uniforms: red-striped military jodhpurs and caps, huge peplum-style patent belts, Eloise’s white collars and short, puffy sleeves, black patent plastic boots, shiny chocolate and grey rain slickers, and gold button cabans with high-rise undies and stockings. This was basically a mix of toy soldiers and sexy maid’s uniforms. Jacobs dipped liberally into green, too—a tricky color, unless it’s Saint Patrick’s Day. Evening was a feast of ’40s style all over embroidered dresses, scaly sequins up the fronts of hourglass skirts, and plastified lace. For the finale, we were treated to a cheeky Kate Moss, in military cap and seductive high-rise pants, puffing away like a chimney. Oh la la!

 

 

LOOKS FROM CHANEL (LEFT) AND JULIEN DAVID.

And the backdrop was bleak at Chanel, where Karl Lagerfeld set his show against a set of apocalyptic devastation at the Grand Palais. This nearly all-black (with shades of grey and white) collection looked pretty beautiful, though—and younger. From the first exit, a short cape over a simple jacket in crunchy tweed worn with velvety leggings and flat biker boots, the Chanel girls looked like chic characters out of Les Misérables: feverish, sooty, passionate, but also contemporary and real. Lagerfeld ran capes of all lengths throughout the show and also layered jackets: cropped, crunchy tweed styles over slouchy, sleek men’s suit jackets with jeans and leggings and the flat black boots. The eveningwear looked like Joan of Arc out for a night on the town; that is, unreal, metallic, transparent, and kind of eerie. This was a good show.

Julien David made his runway debut last night with girls’ faces covered in white scarf hoods with digitalized portraits of themselves. The trick was masterful. David is a true hybrid: he’s a French designer who learned his trade working with Narciso Rodriguez and Ralph Lauren in New York and who now lives in Japan, where he seeks out small artisans, the best in their fields, to assemble his collection piece by piece. Starting with silk twill scarves, still a major component of his collection, he has in a few short seasons built up a collection which includes elegant basics, shoes, and bags with intelligent twists. “I wanted to make two dimensions look like three,” says David. Accordingly, he sent out brilliant prints of discarded plastic tubing and distorted others which looked like they would if seen from a speeding car. These he used for silk scarf tops with sheer backs, paired with outerwear styles in sleek fabrics. David’s tailoring took the form of long A-line men’s cots over leggs, both pleated at the side to look as thorugh they had started flat and been blown up into 3D.