Certain designers favored romantic, even rose-covered pieces, while others transmitted racier messages with stripped-down, Eighties-style looks or souped-up, sci-fi styles.

Valentino: Defining his laid-back approach to spring, Valentino's show notes described fashion as "a collage of souvenirs." And indeed, the collection he showed on Sunday looked as if it could have been culled from a longtime customer's well-stocked closet. Modernized Valentino classics included a black-and-white opening passage full of the clean-cut shapes that made him famous. A tailored white jacket was worn over pegged black pants, while a white gown with crystal straps took the sleek look into evening.

But with an ode to chinoiserie, Valentino took an eccentric turn. Kimono jackets, flounced dresses, high-drama gowns — just about everything — was covered with fields of oversized blooms, buds and bouquets of the sort found on import-export porcelains. Or, as Valentino's notes put it, "roses, roses and more roses." You could almost hear the bees buzzing. And it sure was sweet.

Lanvin: As his cult status mushrooms, Alber Elbaz's challenge at Lanvin only becomes more acute. How to maintain all that steam? But with deft tailoring and a daringly stark look, Elbaz defended his position as a front-runner in the fashion pack for another season. He hurried on from fall's beribboned faux-naivete. Gone was the ruffled romance, and banished were Elbaz's bell-skirted belles. It was all replaced by a rigorous silhouette so pared down it was aerodynamic and a look that crackled with Eighties attitude.

With minimalist clothes that were searingly sexy, Elbaz expressed his dark and moody side in a new way. Sleek sheath dresses were cinched with industrial elastic bands wide as obis, and fluid men's shirts were tucked into lean, mean pencil skirts that zippered up their back seams. Then, in a final fit of extravagance, Elbaz sent out a troop of dresses slick with glittering orchids or abstract swaths of color. As Elbaz explained, "It's one of the most modern collections I've done — more strict this time." And the better for it.

Alexander McQueen: Point-counterpoint. It's what makes for good dialogue in fashion as in other disciplines. So it was probably inevitable that Alexander McQueen, a renegade at heart, would choose this moment of gentility elsewhere on the runways to brashly reexamine a favorite topic — sex.

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