After a two-week vacation, Alber Elbaz returned to the Lanvin atelier with nary a sketch in tow and only 10 days to go before his designs were due. But that didn’t stop him from putting plenty of thought into his new fall collection, and he previewed a handful of examples of what’s to come for a few editors and retailers this week. Elbaz studied the simple chic of icons like Diana Vreeland and Marlene Dietrich. He mused on his muses, who include Kate Moss, Queen Rania and Sarah Jessica Parker and his non-famous clients alike. He pondered sketching itself — did male designers like Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Lacroix sketch, while their female peers such as Coco Chanel and Miuccia Prada draped?

Elbaz took a transgendered approach, draping instead of sketching and adopting “voyage” as his theme. The result: luxe, smart clothes built to convert for practicality’s sake. Layered jackets and coats in astrakan or silk razimir worked a three-for-the-price-of-one angle, peeling off in layers with clever vests and linings coming into play. Fur collars and shirt collars all buttoned off and buttoned back on. For doubled options, a blousy chiffon vest came layered over a sleek shift dress, while other perfectly packable items included Elbaz’s clever smoking shirt, lightweight knits and slinky robe dress.

For all the masterful transformations going on, however, Elbaz’s look was utterly unfettered, elegant and chic. “It’s all very simple,” he said. “I didn’t want it to be intellectual, because I’m not. But I’m not afraid to be called a technician.”

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