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Views of Reality

Wild fantasy has its place, but certain houses have a different mission. Creating real clothes for flesh-and-blood women is the agenda there. Albert Kriemler, for example, made elegant tailoring a winning formula for Akris, and Alber Elbaz’s...

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Wild fantasy has its place, but certain houses have a different mission. Creating real clothes for flesh-and-blood women is the agenda there. Albert Kriemler, for example, made elegant tailoring a winning formula for Akris, and Alber Elbaz’s confident Lanvin collection was inspired by jewels. Meanwhile, Martine Sitbon went her own way, as ever, with an inside-out motif.

Akris: Some women just don’t aspire to hang 10. Nor do they wish to go public with their hooker fantasies. Thank goodness some companies understand that, and make clothes that address the real-life needs of those women. Akris has been doing exactly that for years. Recently, it has been the decision of Albert Kriemler, designer and a principal of the firm founded by his grandmother in 1922, to up its profile and fashion quotient while retaining its dedication to high quality and discreet chic.

For spring, Kriemler did that with considerable diversity, showing a collection meant to address specific wardrobe needs rather than play to a single editorial focus. He kept his shapes lean but relaxed, skillfully working the classics — the trench, the shirtdress, the smart suit — while maintaining a breezy balance between tailored and soft looks. Elegant tailoring was evident in a sleek, one-button pantsuit, while a suit with a boxy jacket detailed with leather straps at the neck and wrists delivered a bit more edge. His dresses ranged from sheaths with a faint whiff of Audrey Hepburn about them to practical shirtdresses belted at the hips to wispier lovelies in gentle chiffons.

Kriemler approached evening with the same eye toward options. He offered controlled witchy wear in a dramatic chiffon poncho over pants, one of a number of black looks. Still, sometimes even the most refined types like to try a little color. If she’s feeling frisky, a woman can slip into a sexy sage-green satin slip with a jeweled strap buckle, while a lilac chiffon halter gown will allow her to indulge in a little fashion romance.

Lanvin: Correct and composed. Those are the adjectives that sprang to mind while watching Alber Elbaz’s confident collection at the house of Lanvin. Was it young? Well, not exactly. But Elbaz’s style isn’t geared to rabid sex kittens. His client is more sophisticated, more mature and grounded in the real world. She wears linen burlap suits for day and slips into a seamless black satin dress at night.

Jewelry was Elbaz’s point of departure, as he explained backstage before the show. “Jewelry makes me dream,” he said. “I wanted to do dresses that are like jewelry.” To this effect, crystals, which had been soaked in acid to achieve an antique patina, were embroidered onto gauze and positioned like necklaces on dresses or tops. Elbaz is an accomplished tailor, and he displayed his craft in well-proportioned, skinny day suits cut with rough edges. Grecian dresses, many draped out of a single piece of fabric, were also an important theme. They were elegant and refined. In the two seasons since his arrival, Elbaz is carving out a direction for the house.

Martine Sitbon: When she’s on the money, it looks good. And Martine Sitbon cashed in with a strong collection for spring. She worked an inside-out theme in much of her daywear, turning pockets out on trousers or reversing jackets to reveal their interior seams. The idea may hardly be new, but Martine’s version was clean and cool, as were her wrap-around miniskirts, pleated skirts with asymmetrical hems, masculine tailored jackets and striped tops.

Sitbon also explored the athletic theme that’s racing through this season, putting racing stripes on zip-up blousons and minidresses. Meanwhile, she showed a bevy of her floating signature chiffon dresses, in graphic geometric patterns of pink, yellow, gray and lilac. The best revealed a lingerie theme, including bodices and faux garters.

Balmain: Laurent Mercier, showing his second collection for Balmain, struggled to give this aging house a shot of verve. Certainly, revisiting its heritage for chic and elegant sportswear was a good place to start. And that’s the approach he adopted in his spring collection. He started with knee-length suits and tops, printed with flowers. Working a Japanese theme, he showed kimono-style jackets and dresses, while for evening, dresses with floaty sleeves were the main story.

To be fair, some of the clothes will appeal to mature ladies. But they neither had the originality nor the natural elegance that Balmain, which has been through a revolving door of designers for a few years, requires to get up and running.

Jewelry was Elbaz’s point of departure, as he explained backstage before the show. “Jewelry makes me dream,” he said. “I wanted to do dresses that are like jewelry.” To this effect, crystals, which had been soaked in acid to achieve an antique patina, were embroidered onto gauze and positioned like necklaces on dresses or tops. Elbaz is an accomplished tailor, and he displayed his craft in well-proportioned, skinny day suits cut with rough edges. Grecian dresses, many draped out of a single piece of fabric, were also an important theme. They were elegant and refined. In the two seasons since his arrival, Elbaz is carving out a direction for the house.

Martine Sitbon: When she’s on the money, it looks good. And Martine Sitbon cashed in with a strong collection for spring. She worked an inside-out theme in much of her daywear, turning pockets out on trousers or reversing jackets to reveal their interior seams. The idea may hardly be new, but Martine’s version was clean and cool, as were her wrap-around miniskirts, pleated skirts with asymmetrical hems, masculine tailored jackets and striped tops.

Sitbon also explored the athletic theme that’s racing through this season, putting racing stripes on zip-up blousons and minidresses. Meanwhile, she showed a bevy of her floating signature chiffon dresses, in graphic geometric patterns of pink, yellow, gray and lilac. The best revealed a lingerie theme, including bodices and faux garters.

Balmain: Laurent Mercier, showing his second collection for Balmain, struggled to give this aging house a shot of verve. Certainly, revisiting its heritage for chic and elegant sportswear was a good place to start. And that’s the approach he adopted in his spring collection. He started with knee-length suits and tops, printed with flowers. Working a Japanese theme, he showed kimono-style jackets and dresses, while for evening, dresses with floaty sleeves were the main story.

To be fair, some of the clothes will appeal to mature ladies. But they neither had the originality nor the natural elegance that Balmain, which has been through a revolving door of designers for a few years, requires to get up and running.

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