she said before her show. “After Sept. 11, I was personally depressed, but I don’t think this influences the way we work+You should enter politics if you really want to do something+It’s impossible to change anything with fashion.”
Except to lift spirits, and these three biggest guns are betting that the best feel-good fix of all is looking glamorous, at times dangerously so. On Saturday, Ford did virtually everything right for the kind of woman who likes to do everything wrong. Which, of course, is the mythical essence of his Gucci girl. “It’s wicked and fierce,” he said of his collection. “I wanted to go back to what Gucci is to me. She’s a rock chick, strong and powerful, with lots of attitude.”
Ford set the stage for that mindset from the ground up, literally; his guests and models trod on an ultra-plush natural shearling carpet that played shamelessly on the double entendre in the term “shag rug.”
This season his kohl-eyed girl displays an unfamiliar penchant for Goth, yet wears it with her typical yen for decadence. Ford cut her clothes soft in look if not in attitude: fluid or full on top over tight skirts or skinny, too-long pants that bunched at the ankle over stilettos in that good old Eighties way. And he kept his colors sultry-sober, mostly black and brown, with hints of eggplant and dark, moody gold.
Despite the collection’s bird’s-eye focus, Tom mixed his references just a bit, a little Japanese, some vaguely Thirties touches. He also played with textures both subtly, with wide satin borders on wool and cashmere coats, and dramatically, weaving a fur bomber with shiny ribbons. Stevie Nicks was channeled in witchy wear kept fresh because it ignored her girly-mystic schtick for a tougher take. This meant tops that wrapped, floated and tied, and for evening, Queen of the Night gowns that turned, twisted and were sometimes slashed to spectacular effect. And, also true to his Gucci beliefs, Ford packed in plenty of merch: great coats, tough chic jackets, killer shoes and what might become the must-have bag of the season, a long alligator gem on a wooden handle, because his girl is wicked and fierce. And that’s just how she likes to spend.
The Prada show opened with Eva Herzigova done up in full glamazon glory, wrapped in a black nylon and fur bomber jacket, ponytail swinging and cheekbones accentuated like 1989. She signaled the coming of Miuccia’s parallel universe, where the banal intrigues while taking on an eerie essence.
Prada went where she’s never gone before — the land of everyday sexy. Along the way, she replaced eccentricity with sass and offbeat, insider charm with power-babe bravado. “I’m tired of hearing people tell me that I don’t do sexy things,” she said. Still, Prada knows that at the orgy of obvious seduction, she makes the ultimate wallflower. “I’m interested in the obsession with sexiness…” she explained. “I worked on what people think is sexy — Roberto Cavalli…It does not really correspond to my idea of sexy. Mine is personal.” Thus, the characteristic Prada irony shone through in Miuccia’s Plain Jane fantasy of the vixen life.
That distance, along with the fact that, piece by piece, most of these clothes are great to wear, is what made the collection work, at least most of the time. Yet her detachment felt undeniably strange, and rang untrue for some in the audience.
Still, both fan and critic saw a dramatic shift. When before has Prada flaunted references so unabashedly, except to pay intellectual-ironic homage to Yves Saint Laurent? This time, she worked plenty, and not only in Cavalli-style sizzle. Most noticeably, there was the flash of Alaia aggressive chic, and who could miss the chain mail link to Gianni Versace?
Throughout, she wove in elements of the Eighties, the last time, she said, fashion had “a precise silhouette.” She exaggerated shoulders with overgrown puffed sleeves, and tucked skinny pants into treacherously high boots. She straddled decades with a fur coat perfect for both Joans — Crawford and Collins. And in her all-over sequins or a cartoon-slick plastic raincoat, a glamour girl can dazzle, come rain or come shine.
That same witty eye carried over into Prada’s lingerie. She cut chemises and slips from multiple blocks of ice cream-colored silks, sometimes layering them with fringed chain mail shimmy numbers. And what latter-day Betty Page wouldn’t love a lipstick-print romper? Obsessively sexy — just the way Miuccia likes it.
Unlike Prada, Karl Lagerfeld is no stranger in the paradise of glamour. He knows it, loves it, lives it, and so does his Fendi woman. Sure, they find plenty of room to digress together into infatuations of the moment — remember last fall’s mini-mink space cadet? But they share a deep-seated lust for luxe that Lagerfeld fueled blatantly in his fall collection on Saturday. Hence, the gold-dappled benches and set; unlike spring’s dramatic Mad Maxine motif, this was a racier, more beautiful take on glamour that retained just enough of spring’s artsy flourishes, as if Lauren Hutton were conducting experiments in au sauvage.
Lagerfeld started simply with a chic suit, a two-tone coat. These showed off his tailoring and announced his preferred silhouette: lean and clean, with a hint of jetset Seventies. Brown suede dominated, in sleek dresses, skirts and coats, some ingeniously seamed with nailheads and nary a stitch in sight. Of course, sometimes, such understatement doesn’t fly. That’s when a girl can slip into her fur Robin Hood tunic or a fluffy little midriff over pants.
And then there are the furs — no understatement here. They looked magnificent, and diverse, some as casual as a bathrobe (OK, a devore mink bathrobe painted inside and out in delicate pastels) some glamorama grand (the sweeping sables). But Karl’s big message — he has always favored the sweeping decree — isn’t about a coat at all. Instead, he favors the “wrap-around,” a big, indulgent toss of fur with a single sleeve that a woman slips on and then flings to her heart’s delight. “The possibilities are endless. She has to be her own stylist,” Lagerfeld pronounced. He even suggested using it as an extra blanket for the hotel. How’s that for investment spending in tough times?
Of course, such versatility is only possible thanks to the in-house technology that allows for featherweight, double-faced furs. “Twenty years ago, it was new to show the lining,” Karl recalls. “But now, forget about it — bourgeois, no?”
Bourgeois-aphobic or not, even Karl is not immune to the delights of the masses. That’s why his grandest evening ensemble — a crystal mesh gown with fox wrap-around worn as a cape — looked more showgirl than socialite. But then, in some circles, a little Vegas glitz is the essence of glam.