Alber Elbaz loves to point out that he designs not for editors but for women, the sentiment no less genuine for the fact that Elbaz has developed an editorial savvy as acute as anyone’s in the business. He just refuses to let it trump his primary message of total engagement in addressing the real-world concerns of busy sophisticated women (swoon-prone fashion editors among them) who yearn for adult chic that makes sense for their lives.
The Lanvin collection Elbaz showed on Friday played beautifully into this premise. Before his show, Elbaz talked about women wanting to be in complete control, and “when they come home, they collapse.” He translated that thought in sculptural mode, a huge curve of fabric (“Mr. Beene made me paranoid about the word ‘ruffle,’” he said) around the body. This established a pattern of asymmetry, which included numerous one-shoulder cuts, among them those in which one dramatic sleeve met a sleek black glove, while the other arm was left bare. He also offered inventive tailoring, for example, a smoking jacket that divided horizontally, fluid silk on top over a more traditional suiting material.
As for the “collapsing” motif, the reference was not a setup for at-home wear; (still, one can find fabulous lounging pajamas in silk and cotton jersey versions at the Lanvin boutique). Rather, Elbaz relaxed the obvious structure into folds and pleats that looked like the glorious descendants of Madeleine Vionnet’s supple geometry now on breathtaking display at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Some looks were gathered so casually that the bunching might have resulted from the model’s stride; others, both dresses and killer jumpsuits, he plisséd to imprecise perfection. And he furthered the notion of collapse by casting aside the austerity of black for the indulgence of ebullient color and embellishment. The result was high glamour of the most powerful sort.