Alber Elbaz continues to get it remarkably right. The Lanvin collection he presented on Friday was both on trend and beyond trend, his lineup consisted of stunningly elegant relations to the brash, big-shouldered, retro glamazons parading about elsewhere. Unquestionably, they share some genes, specifically those tracing back to the Forties. Yet Elbaz’s strain boasts the recessive rather than dominant traits.


His starting point, as always, was the here and now, and not the runway version of it. To drive home that point, he showed on what appeared to be just-rained-on black asphalt, located in a far-off venue. (Let’s rethink that place next season, folks, especially at rush hour.) But there was nothing distant about the clothes. “This dress, they tell me it’s not a runway dress,” Elbaz said prior to his show, indicating a simple look and waving about at various staffers. “But it’s a woman dress, so I’ll show it.” Conversely, if it’s not a “woman dress,” or coat, or suit, au revoir.


That consistency and simplicity of purpose have catapulted the mild-mannered Elbaz to something resembling cult status among women who work in fashion. For fall, he pulled back from spring’s often-vibrant mood, despite some quite dramatic draping that resulted from cutting primarily on the bias. Suits gathered into ample but soft peplums in front; an asymmetric ruffled cascade fell down the side of a dress. When he wanted to embellish further, it was with haughty fur stoles, fabrics streaked with midnight glitter and, for women who like their elegance with an edge, linear embroideries in flashy, tough-chic metals. It all made for clothes that both work and enchant, and you can’t do much better than that.

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