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Languid and Ladylike

Apparently spring's space odyssey left Alber Elbaz a little homesick.

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Lanvin: Apparently spring’s space odyssey left Alber Elbaz a little homesick. Thus, he brought Lanvin back down to earth for fall with a stunning collection that was all about controlled chic. His return to a more familiar frame of mind came with a few archival techniques — mainly mined from Madame Lanvin’s languid geometry of the Thirties — that were most obvious in strong shoulders achieved by subtle folds that released into full bloused sleeves that tapered toward the wrist. But this was far from a period piece. In fact, rather than abandon last season’s futuristic look entirely, Elbaz played to its softer side, pairing the edgy — exposed zippers and linear, beaded darts — with easy fabrics like washed silk in powerful fuchsia and violet, all sent out on models wigged out in black blunt-cut bobs. But as he said in a pre-show interview, “It’s not yesterday, not tomorrow; it’s about being relevant today.”

Indeed, these clothes were modern marvels of construction, many crafted out of a single piece of fabric. That said, while they looked effortless, they were by no means simple. Once Elbaz created the foundation silhouette, he put the excess material to thoughtful use in deftly executed details, which, in the hands of a lesser designer, could have turned sloppy. Silk sheaths spilled into sweeping, painterly collars. Dresses were trussed into ruffles that scalloped down the spine, and pencil skirts were ruched and pouffed over the rear. And save for a belt, dart or zipper, garments were largely unadorned. When Elbaz chose to decorate, he did so with restraint, tracing lines sparingly studded with square and circular gems. In the end, Elbaz’s message was a pitch-perfect blend of intrigue and pragmatism.

Miu Miu: Now here’s a trend for you: Pantyhose hiked up high over a girl’s tucked-in top, boldly visible under a hip-riding skirt. (Whatever happened to just flaunting one’s Calvins?) This was only one of the curious statements Miuccia Prada put forth in her Miu Miu collection, which continued the revisited-classics motif the designer began back in Milan with her signature line.

But rather than mine Prada’s mannish eco-intellectualism, here she strummed a more feminine chord in Fifties-esque silhouettes. “I maintained my history: twin sets and pleated skirts,” Prada said after the show. And, indeed, she played with those ladylike basics in every which way: cut in sturdy wools, quilty metallics, rubbery leathers and nylon tweeds in colors ranging from camel neutrals to sorbet hues to flashes of red and neon-highlighter pink. Those forward-looking fabrics, interestingly enough, developed out of the atelier’s research in textile innovations from that sock-hop era.

This story first appeared in the March 6, 2007 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Miu Miu’s other big news: exaggerated volume, further amped up by stiff-as-cardboard fabrics. Thus, blazers and coats came with pronounced, rounded hips, while giant flared skirts took on almost clownish proportions. The end result often looked rather frumpy — and begged the question of whether any of those front-row PYTs (Charlotte Casiraghi, Claire Danes, et al.) would want to audition those shapes. As for those ill-fitting, dimpled bra cups on the fit-and-flare bustier frocks, they’re enough to send any girl heading straight for the tissue box. But perhaps that’s why Prada tempered the volume with a series of less stiff, come-hither peekaboo options, from organza A-line skirts to gentle see-through sweaters, as well as sweetly ruffled and gem-encrusted spectator pumps. While still exuding a certain lofty Prada quirkiness, these pieces are bound to have more street legs than those gargantuan molded separates.

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