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Reality Rules

<STRONG>Lanvin:</STRONG> One of the wonderful things about fashion in general and especially in Paris is that there is no one right way. From the wildly fantastical to the uberpractical, if it's good, it will find an audience. That said, there is...

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Lanvin: One of the wonderful things about fashion in general and especially in Paris is that there is no one right way. From the wildly fantastical to the uberpractical, if it’s good, it will find an audience. That said, there is something almost bizarre in the way Alber Elbaz has connected with his audience, both the industry pros who see the clothes on the runway and, ultimately, the women who buy them. You would have been hard-pressed to find a woman exiting his Lanvin show on Sunday who was not aglow with the rush of possibilities — how the clothes will look in my store, on the pages of my magazine, on me.

Elbaz is doing something fairly rare these days. Not only does he make clothes for real adults — virtually all designers with significant business do that — he makes no bones about it. And yet he manages to put them on the runway in a manner that elevates real-life fabulous to the level of its runway-only counterpart. “There’s no transparency and we don’t have any prints,” he boasted before the show, implying clearly his contention that his customers will wear the latter sparingly and the former, not at all.

Elbaz’s spring is all about inventive — make that ingenious — draping aided big-time by the “P” word — polyester. He used this wonderfully supple, fluid fabric for more than half the collection, including sensual no-seam dresses and flyaway trenchcoats in navy and taupe for an ultrachic update on the classic ensemble, and a prime candidate for the season’s best buy-in-multiples uniform. Dresses sans coats were swirled to lean perfection and belted, and while Elbaz also offered a glamorous take on sportswear. He brightened up with jewel-toned cocktail dresses in shades of emerald, amethyst and sapphire in typically crisp chemises adorned with demonstrative ruffles at the neck. Conversely, a white dress got a flurry of feathers — in front only, the better for sitting through dinner. For big evenings, Elbaz went gracefully flamboyant, with high-impact, low-anxiety, ruffle-edged tents of color that billowed as the girls walked.

“Everything is about ease for the woman,” Elbaz said. That’s why he’s always loved dresses: “Zip it on, zip it off, that’s it.” Lest anyone doubt his emotional communion with his customer, Elbaz spelled it out when he sent out his last model, little Siri Tollerød, done up in his own personal uniform, including the giant bow tie, right before his own appearance. They looked almost identical — give or take a few pounds.

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