Smart designers know that no matter how many hit collections have been racked up, it is unwise to retreat into the proverbial ivory tower. Being of this world is essential, so when conceiving his spring collection, Alber Elbaz first considered how the Internet has changed the way he designs. “I thought, ‘All I want is a gray jogging suit, but in the street it will be so boring,’” said Elbaz during a preview. “Then I said, ‘You know what? We’re not X-raying everything.’ So for me it was more important how [the clothes] would feel than how it would photograph.”
The jogging suit made the cut. So did T-shirts, pencil skirts and loose shirtdresses that opened the show with a stripped-down but powerful chic. Admittedly, Elbaz is the furthest thing from a sportswear designer, but he expertly adopted the idea of comfy separates and sportiness for his haute purposes. Track pants, complete with side stripes, were anything but casual with sexy slits down the sides. A white T-shirt was done with special, structured sleeves. And the stretch scuba material typical of athletic fare was worked into tight skirts — boned on one side to prevent riding up — and a sizzling color-blocked dress with long sleeves and a bejeweled snake slithering up the side and around the neck.
It was delightfully unexpected and a well-timed way to move on from the draping and tucking that have shaped some of Elbaz’s most successful collections. Though, as he pointed out, that’s exactly what many of his customers still want. The challenge was finding a way to restate it, here, through pronounced, padded shoulders created from tucked fabric on sleeveless blouses, silky sweatshirts and tailored jackets. Elbaz called them “wings” in an effort to dilute the connection to the Forties and Eighties, but that’s beyond his control. There was a definite Eighties vibe to the conspicuously glam streetwear, and, in the end, he seemed to embrace the idea. Tracksuits piled high with mega jewels — crystal crosses and gold chokers — were fabulously fun. Some were done in green and black snake prints, which, in combination with the soft pleated dresses held with safety pins, hinted at vintage Versace. It’s in the air and on the Internet, after all.