It’s both daring and dicey to project world events onto the fashion screen. Not that major events don’t impact the mind-sets of creative people, but it’s a nuanced relationship that requires deft invocation, especially when you’re about to present a snazzy-jazzy collection filled with flamboyant pleats and flying fringe.


Backstage before his Balmain show, Olivier Rousteing spoke about “what happened [in January],” referring obviously to the Charlie Hebdo shootings. He noted the importance of celebrating Paris’ history as a center for artistic freedom and a melting pot of exotic cultures. The city, he said, is known for its “global feeling, the mix of different origins. I wanted to go back to that and still keep the richness of the Seventies in Paris.”


Lovely thought from an earnest young man, but it took a wayward turn on its way to the runway. Moroccan palette, orientalism, Seventies flou, Eighties sexpots, florals, color blocks, peekaboo lace, endless renditions of sparkle and shine, and enough foot-long bugle-beaded fringe doing precision swings from bodices to outfit a competitive team of retro glam majorettes — Rousteing sent them out with dizzying vigor, but to what end? He loves to talk about young women and his generation, but really? These clothes are not young. Nor does one imagine tony, chic adults making a run for them.


Paris is a glorious city, and Rousteing may well contribute to its artistic diversity in a significant way. His more immediate concern: tempering his retro enthusiasm in a manner that suits a modern luxury customer.

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