Paris Diary: Day Four

Published March 3, 2012

It’s hard to believe it’s already been a decade that Alber Elbaz has been wowing the fashion world at Lanvin. Jeanne Lanvin’s ladylike house was a sleeper before he took the reigns, but by the time Elbaz arrived, he’d already shown how great he was with short stints at Yves Saint Laurent and Guy Laroche.

Last night was party time. At show’s end, with gold sparkles pouring down, Elbaz took the microphone and sang “Que Sera Sera” to his audience before leaving the stage to Joey Arias, the diva of all divas, Pink Martini, NPRs latin lover boy Ari Shapiro and the incandescent Kim Hastreiter on xylophone for the night. This collection was full of Elbaz’s three-dimensional curves focusing on frilly peplum fronts for a series of bright dresses and coats in teal, plum, saffron, red, cobalt blue and periwinkle, shown with iconic black footwear. Fur vests over bare skin followed with jewel scattered pieces, cinched waist show stoppers, circle skirts, wrap coats and slinky draping. There was not one extra detail in any of this, an economy of expression which makes makes Lanvin shine like a template for the modern woman.

Hussein Chalayan called his show “Domisilent” and that odd word and other words and phrases like “change” “reverse winter”, “cause and effect” and the French “nature morte” (still life) flashed up on his show’s audiovisual backdrop along with blurry photographs that appeared to be photographic renditions of someone’s faded memories. In French, Domisilent would most likely refer to one’s address, but Chalayan spelled it differently–accent on the English silent—so who knows exactly what he meant. The clothes are a paint stroke of light in a dark world beginning with the opening flame red column, followed by color blocking in orange and red, electric green and charcoal gray, dark green with light, or the more spacey combo hologram silver with flesh tone beige. The hourglass shapes, dresses over skinny pants, boxy tailoring and draping gets to the essence of a modern wardrobe.

Stalwart Bill Gaytten, like the most fantastic studio musician , or a passionate backup singer, continues to offer perfectly beautiful, contemporary Christian Dior clothes while the house pursues its quest to find a successor to John Galliano. Gaytten is great, there’s no doubt about that now, but he’s not turning fashion on it’s ear. Paired down suits and twisted, hourglass shapes define the sexy, perfectly tailored Christian Dior silhouettte resolutely below the knee for Fall/Winter in beige, black, grey and fleshy rose. These are money-in-the-bank clothes for any Diorophile who wants to extend her collection of basics. With a cinched waist for jackets and dresses,inset color/fabric blocking—like a bolt of lightening—down the fronts of dresses and suits, and clever fabric twist shaping, there is a place for everything and everything in its place here, but one longs for more.

Isabel Marant has a solid following of young girls with plenty of cash and what’s most refreshing is that her look has nothing to do with luxury in that suffocatingly cashmere sense. No, Marant is about fashion and relaxed clothes for girls who let their hair blow in the wind. This show played Marant fans with takes on vintage Nudie Cohn style embroidered, snap front western shirts, a medley of Victorian lace maiden whites restyled as mini dresses, pink satin petticoats and jean jackets retooled Navajo style.

Maison Martin Margiela can be counted on to turn the tables on proportion. This season all began calmly enough with perfectly tailored wide shouldered jackets over impeccable trousers all on the loose, but before long it was evident that the focus was the neck or rather on how to make the neck disappear beneath endlessly high standup collars. After that, dresses and skirts looked like the fabrics had been laid over the body, but left unshaped. And for the finale, MMM brought out a fabulously shiny white paper, men’s shirt and full length accordion pleat skirt with a big chunk missing to reveal a sexy slice of leg.

Speaking of sex and Yohji Yamamoto is highly unusual, but every season includes its share of surprises. Yamamoto went for slink in red column cutout jersey dresses worn with basic flat black boots and continued tracing the body in black including racy lace-up satin sheaths and capes with tough lady black gloves and a shock of paintbox red floating in the models’ hair. Accordion pleat skirts, torso-baring satin blouses, dramatic red and black numbers and a stint of pole dancing highlighted YY’s frisky nature.