FROM JUNGLE BELLES TO BARDOT BABES
TOM FORD DID STYLISH SAFARI LOOKS FOR THE URBAN JUNGLE AT YVES SAINT LAURENT, WHILE MICHAEL KORS TOOK HIS CELINE GALS ON A BARDOT-ESQUE VESPA JAUNT AND PHOEBE PHILO RECALLED TALITHA GETTY IN HER CLOTHES FOR CHLOE.
Yves Saint Laurent: It’s a jungle out there, this land of fashion, filled with rough terrain, endless distractions and all kinds of stealth carnivores waiting to pounce and tear apart the mighty should they stumble a bit. Well, they’re not getting their teeth into Tom Ford any time soon. For spring, Ford’s power trip continued at full throttle, as he ventured far into the hallowed Yves Saint Laurent land of safari.
It was inevitable that Ford would one day find himself there, and with all its iconic associations, it could have proven dangerous, indeed. But this designer doesn’t wander anywhere unprepared; he is far too smart, too obsessive and, yes, too controlling. He researches tirelessly first, learns the turf and figures out how to make his mark.
And he always starts with a narrow focus. A Ford collection never features an abundance of ideas thrown out willy-nilly, but a finely honed expression of a singular thought. So much so that it often leaves little room for neutrality among critics; a collection either grabs you, or it doesn’t. This one grabbed with gusto. Not with the flourish and high drama of his fall Spanish collection, but with a sultrier, more relaxed sensuality. On this utterly chic safari, Ford brought along those great girls of the jet set, including muse-of-the-season Talitha Getty, but he never dressed them in costumes or allowed a dusty reference to wallow in its past glory.
Instead, in just his third season, he gave another example of how he has made the house of Saint Laurent his own. His safari starts with leopard spots, zillions of them. In fact, if all the Saint Laurent senoritas rustling about this fall don’t like the spotted stuff, they’ll find some rough going next spring. Still, they will find continuity in Ford’s shapes: almost-peasant blouses that fell off the shoulder; a sexy, reed-thin silhouette featuring skirts seamed in front and back, next-generation to fall’s shirred versions. Throughout, Ford worked the spots in blouses, dresses and skirts. When he veered away, it was with bold tribal patterns and lacy, racy knits.
Of course, when most people think safari they think jackets, and Tom is no exception. But instead of trying to make fresh stuff of literal twill, he opted for the irony of wonderfully delicate chiffon. On the other hand, sturdy leathers were just as provocative, often punctuated with lace-up seams.
By day, everything looked fabulous. Then came evening, a Liz Taylor-in-Marrakech caftan affair. Which is fabulous, too, for Liz Taylor in Marrakech. However, Tom’s more constant customers are likely to prefer something a little more revealing, and they’ll no doubt be able to find it back in the commercial collection. That’s what’s great about going on safari in Paris.
Celine: “These clothes are definitely about escapism,” Michael Kors said before his Celine show. “If you can’t wear it on the back of a Vespa, I’m not showing it. These are clothes for a Positano princess.”
Or a Park Avenue one. Over the past several years, Kors has won the hearts and loyalty of New York’s young set, both at Celine and his signature house. It’s a customer base he understands perfectly, and the relationship seems to strengthen with every season. But then, Michael gives those girls what they want: spare, uncomplicated clothes that look chic but not stuffy, delivering plenty of fashion without a trace of the victim.
For spring at Celine, Kors is feeling even more casual and younger than ever, taking his urban girl to places both rustic and beachy. In fact, if she wants to ride that Vespa somewhere else — to the office, for instance — she might have a problem. But who cares? It’s more fun to play latter-day Bardot, looking sun-kissed and breathless in sexy little numbers that show off a tan. For that kind of pursuit, Kors has all the bases covered. The range here is from jaunty to flirtatious, with crisp, structured cuts and girly nothings getting equal time.
There was a certain romance to full-sleeved jersey dresses, naughty see-through laces over briefs and the almost-kitsch flower power of a big, bold print and a suede skirt that sported a single huge blossom. Kors countered these with graphic blocks of color in bright blue, olive and brown, and a white trench with pants when a girl wants to look extra-smart. He dolled-up leathers with tooling and went short with glee, both in minis and short-shorts to pull on over a swimsuit like the adorable ruched-tube affair.
It all made for a delightful romp. And while some in the audience found the clothes a little too basic, in reality — the reality of sun, sand and a good time — basic charms are often the best kind.
Chloe: It would be impossible to resist comparing Phoebe Philo’s first Chloe collection to those designed by you-know-who. Would Philo pick up up where her former boss left off? Would she take the house in a different direction? And — who could resist it — which of the two would take home the gold in this season’s most pointed fashion competition? Certainly they’re both seeking a hip young customer, and there was at least one strange echo between Philo’s Chloe and the new Stella McCartney line. For example, Philo showed a teeny bikini embroidered with monkeys, a look inspired by J. Paul Getty Jr.’s late wife Talitha, who wandered Morocco, while McCartney showed a toile de jouy print that sketched out an intimate inter-species union between woman and chimp.
Though such trivia might fascinate insiders, any thoughts of the succession are likely to be far from the minds of core Chloe customers come spring. When they’re standing in the dressing room, what do those ladies care about who takes a bow at the end of the show? Good marketing lures them in, but it’s the merch that counts — those sexy Chloe blouses and tailored trousers that make legs look a mile long. Happily, Philo delivered the goods and then some, opening with a scalloped-edged white pantsuit, then sending out an absolute flurry of cut out white blouses in broderie anglaise.
In fact, Philo carried her peek-a-boo plays throughout the collection, snipping away around the hips of crisp trousers or at the hem of a loose minidress. Besides Talitha, she lifted a little inspiration from a Seventies-era Brigitte Bardot strolling along the sand in Saint-Tropez, sending out lacy pieces edged in gold that would look great with a tan, and tight knits in bold red, green and yellow stripes. Then came more blouses — pirate, poet or puff-sleeved. And more pants — low-riding jodhpurs, buckled knee breeches, baggy shorts, dandyish trousers or others in skintight satin. Editing was not part of the Philo program. But perhaps her bravado was strategic. If it was the designer’s mission to let the world know she’s bursting with good ideas, she accomplished it well.