RUSSIAN DRESSING, BOUDOIR BEAUTIES AND SUPPLE LEATHERS
WITH MARC JACOBS DOING RUSSIAN-INSPIRED LOOKS FOR LOUIS VUITTON, REI KAWAKUBO RAIDING VICTORIA’S SECRET FOR COMME DES GARCONS AND MARTIN MARGIELA’S BEAUTIFUL CLASSICS FOR HERMES, THERE WAS PLENTY TO TALK ABOUT AS THE PARIS FALL COLLECTIONS CONTINUED.

Louis Vuitton: Sometimes things just go right. And they are going very right for Marc Jacobs. Louis Vuitton’s numbers keep going up, up, up. Drive by the store on the Champs-Elysees at 10 minutes to 10 in the morning and you can’t count the number of people lined up outside. The house’s Jacobs/Sprouse graffiti bags are the item most coveted by editors this week. And if they ever make it to the stores, things could get dangerous. And oh, yes, on Monday, Jacobs staged his third stellar collection of the season, a fabulous romp for Louis Vuitton.
Though for years he’s been loath to discuss his “themes” (a residual effect of the Perry Ellis grunge debacle), for fall, Jacobs served up a little Russian dressing. To get in the mood, staffers manipulated photographs of Jacobs & Co., done up as various historical characters, and as the show was about to start, a few Prokofiev chords teased the crowd.
But Marc knows how to work a theme lightly, and this was no costume parade. Instead, it provided a fresh, gracious interlude in the midst of what seems like an endless season. The clothes felt happy without a trace of kitsch or irony. And did we mention luxurious? It must still be a thrill for Jacobs to work at a place where, if you can think it up, they can make it — perfectly. Jacobs focused on a romantic silhouette, small on top and full-skirted, worn with charming dotted lace hose. Tiny jackets flared slightly at the hips and came in felted twill, stiff wool bird’s eye and seal edged in fitch. Some had hook-and-eye closures, others, gentle ruffled collars. Dresses followed a similar line, in sturdy wool or fluid silk prints. And for diversity’s sake, Jacobs threw in a little denim mini, worn with a discreetly ruffled turtleneck. Throughout, he punctuated the clothes with mink pom-poms instead of buttons, and just when you thought Vuitton’s accessories cache was full, he added little pom-pom sweater chains.
While Jacobs didn’t load the runway with accessories, he and stylist Brana Wolf showed enough to pique interest, starting with the season’s next-generation fur hats. Forget rugged Davy Crockett; the Vuitton girl doesn’t rough it, preferring a cossack version, refined and a mile high. Her footwear of choice: side- or front-laced boots; or round-toed, criss-cross Pavlova heels. As for the bag, sleek and hard calf travel cases, without a graffitied word in sight. And the moral is, get it while you can.

Comme des Garcons: Move over Victoria’s Secret. And for that matter, Gaultier, Dolce, Gabbana and Ford. A new, if unlikely, corsetiere is muscling in on your turf — Rei Kawakubo. Her Comme des Garcons show on Sunday was a witty undressing of fashion’s ongoing fascination with lingerie. And while it may not have been her best collection, it was certainly one of her most fun.
Surely there was a deeper meaning here, but darned if we could find it. Maybe the can’t-get-it-closed corset dress stands for a woman’s right not to be skinny, or maybe the model just couldn’t get it closed. And maybe all those external bras mean that women shouldn’t be bound by convention. Kawakubo cut her bras wide all around, like those big cross-your-hearters your mom had, and adorned them with off-kilter cones and smushed appliques. Rei thinks of them as the go-with-anything accessory — big shirts, jackets, dresses. And they make a major statement, although the jury’s out on just what that is: sexed-up artiste or Crazy Jane at Hooters? But Rei’s lust for lingerie didn’t end with bras. She also layered eccentrically twisted lace-edged slips, and you know that masculine-feminine motif? How about a dress that’s part trenchcoat and part frilly nightie, or leathers printed with a lacy doily pattern?
Kawakubo’s jackets were beautiful, blazers and frock coats in velvets, tweeds and men’s wear suitings, often worked in a fabric collage. Some had frills following the line of the hips, or sheer strips inset at the waist. Throughout, Kawakubo missed no opportunity for sexual shenanigans — a terrific jacket over itty-bitty red ruffled briefs; fancy pants ruffled up in front, and semi see-through in back. But with a little imaginary lining fabric, one could see the forest for the trees. Sometimes, though, you could see a whole lot more. Kawakubo closed with a cartoon bondage moment, featuring a giant leather porthole and jumpsuits slashed just so for a peek-a-boo crotch-and-crack show. At that point, designer overboard.

Hermes: Did rumors — rumors that are drifting in from all over — that Jil Sander will replace him reach the ever-so-isolated ear of Martin Margiela? We’ll never know which little bird said — or didn’t say — what to whom, but it certainly appeared that Hermes’s man of mystery did what any designer wise in the ways of the world would — he sent out a collection full of powerfully polished clothes like a man without a care in the world.
Double-barreled coats in leather and fur sent shearlings, which have appeared incessantly on both sides of the Atlantic, in a whole new direction. They were shaggy on the inside and outside, but boasted two smooth layers of leather sandwiched in between. Margiela parried and lunged with beautiful glen plaid suits, cut in a loose, wide-shouldered proportion that’s trendy now, although Margiela himself has done that look since his start at Hermes in 1998. His latest, most elegant versions proved his mastery of the genre, and his coup de grace, somber sweaters and sleeveless cashmere coats, were the image of luxurious discretion.
Margiela’s efforts to inject a little juice in this season’s collection may be too little too late for some in the editorial set, who could be spotted rolling their eyes at the more familiar looks. But the important question is whether the dedicated Hermes client is effecting ennui. Not a chance. The company has reported that sales are up, way up. Apparently, the Hermes customer could care less about editorial intrigue. Just keep that pared-down luxury a-coming.