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NEW YORK — Professing a dislike for trunk shows, Alber Elbaz decided to add an extra dimension to the showing of his fall 2002 collection for Lanvin at Barneys New York recently. So he teamed up with the store’s creative director and resident wit, Simon Doonan, to create an in-store show with a little twist that had press and clients in metaphorical stitches.
Reviving the lost art of fashion commentary, Doonan was the snarky announcer for the 19 looks Elbaz sent down the runway. Doonan opened with an introduction to Elbaz, citing his hobbies as “bungee-jumping and needlepoint” and describing his collection as “the antithesis of slutty dressing.” A black wool and alpaca suit was described as “very Catherine Deneuve, very expensive and very you.” The major selling point of a luxe cape was that it’s always handy, “whether for a hired assassin or a ventriloquist.” A look named “Seductrice” prompted the comment, “If you can’t seduce someone in this, you might as well hang up your Blahniks and head for the nearest convent!” And no shopper can be blamed for coveting a pair of over-stitched brown leather gloves crafted with TLC: “French nuns went blind stitching them.”
Even if Doonan took some factual license regarding matters of production, the clothes — classic shapes cut in rich fabrics with the occasional raw edge — looked more than luxe enough to delight the audience of about a hundred people, including Lyn Revson and jewelry designer Kazuko. “It was so beautiful,” said Revson, who had her eye on two dresses, a backless beige silk number and a black chiffon strapless. “The clothes look soft and comfortable, but still very chic.”
A Barneys spokesperson declined to give exact figures, but said so far, fall sales of Lanvin are 14 percent of projections. This is Elbaz’s first season with Lanvin as well as Barneys’ first carrying the collection.
The designer has had a somewhat tumultuous fashion past: four houses in five years, including Yves Saint Laurent, Guy Laroche and Krizia Top, following a seven-year stint assisting Geoffrey Beene. He seemed thrilled at the turnout. “I was so nervous when I saw so many empty chairs at 10 to 11 o’ clock,” he said of the event, scheduled for 11 a.m.
Postshow, Elbaz praised Doonan, whom he has known for years. But then, any designer would love a salesman with the bravado to instruct clients to “throw out all your tarty Spice Girls outfits and load up on Lanvin!” Doonan, for his part, enjoyed injecting new life into a retail tradition. “Fashion’s become too cold,” he said. “It’s not enough to see Carmen Kass stomping down the runway to loud music. You can see that on the Metro Channel.”