Fanfare and Farewells in Paris

Published October 3, 2013

The very last day of the Paris shows this season will go down in fashion history as a culmination of months of rumor and speculation, all confirmed as the doors of a pink tent rolled open in the courtyard of the Musée du Louvre yesterday morning. Maids bearing feather dusters shuffled across the steps in a labored cleaning ceremony, as forerunners to a Louis Vuitton runway show heaving with symbolic gestures that spelled, even at first glance, that Marc Jacobs had indeed left the house. Adjusting to the inky darkness, memory fragments of past shows sprang to life throughout the space: a splashing fountain, a carnival carrousel, wrought-iron elevators and shopping mall escalators, all surrounded by a mezzanine of hotel room doors. Each harked back to the spectacle, the pomp and the ceremony through which Jacobs evolved the Vuitton brand in his 16-year tenure, and each was painted funereal black, in a crystalline gesture of finality.

So the bell tolled, and Edie Campbell emerging every bit the court jester (or the virgin sacrifice?), her lithe frame glitter-painted in the artist Stephen Sprouse’s iconic graffiti logo, crowned in a headdress of black ostrich feathers by Stephen Jones. With arms raised, shackled in ropes of jet beads, she led a solemn parade of beaded, feathered mourners, their vestments in uniform black save for a shot of blue denim that entertained the collection’s preoccupation for American streetwear: embellished and exotic like never before. Amongst Jacobs’ shownotes, a heartfelt dedication reached out to his favorite women, with Mrs. Prada, Ms. Kawakubo, and Elsa Schiaparelli notable mentions. Their presence was felt both in the clothes and ceremony. All three, dead or alive, would have approved of the lone form of black-skinned Canadian beauty Kayla Clarke, headdress longest of all, closing the show in a bustle of cock feathers. Anna Wintour began a standing ovation. None was far behind.

At the Palais d’Iena, Mrs. Prada papered her Miu Miu set in scrolling wallpapers—climbing Art Nouveau florals with a ’70s revival. Kittens peeked out from blooming lilies, finding their way onto coats later too. Talk about refreshing, after the morning’s death knell. The spiky sponge sofas and swivel armchairs by OMA for Knoll that debuted at her January men’s show were arranged in an orderly maze, transforming the stone and marble salon into a softly furnished retro wonderland. Weaving their way through the maze, Miu Miu’s maidens looked a little lost—like Alice in Wonderland lost. They each had a strand of flyaway fringe artfully caught on their glossed lip, which said something about the collection’s perverse perfection: a fly in the ointment, per se. That ointment was feminine classicism—spongy A-line coats, pencil skirts, and the camisole—saturated beyond sweetness in patent, suede, crystal, and velvet variations. Perspex chokers hung around the neck like a forgotten Alice band, and crystal beading shook and shimmered down chandelier skirts. “Just a spoon full of sugar makes the medicine go down,” said Mary Poppins. Miuccia shook the whole bag.

Later in the lush surroundings of the Jardin de Luxembourg, Christophe Lemaire situated his Hermès collection amongst the kinds of foliage that the French primitive painter Henri Rousseau loved to imitate. In fact, the dead painter’s nickname through life was Le Douanier, or the toll collector, a reference to an earlier occupation. Lemaire has taken his time to settle into his role amongst the Birkins and the Kellys, yet he too may begin collecting his dues. He anyhow owes several to Rousseau for Spring, opening the show with a leafy floral print and continuing the dark colors of the forest throughout, cut in kaftans of crêpe or particularly fetching culottes in crocodile. Wrapped, loose and languid as ever, Lemaire’s clothes have calmed into the sophistication and subtlety that the house warrants—i.e., elegance first, trend relevance second.