CLASSIC BEAUTY OR DIVINE MADNESS
YVES SAINT LAURENT: The big rush, the adoring ladies, remembrance of things past — that’s the way it goes when Yves Saint Laurent shows couture. As he was about to present his collection on Wednesday to close the season, all of the familiar elements fell into place at the Hotel Intercontinental.
But of course, what’s most familiar are the Saint Laurent clothes, all of those once-seismic creations now so deeply entrenched in fashion’s vernacular, and in the subconscious of countless designers who continue to mint his turf for inspiration. And if these days Saint Laurent presents them within a context of bittersweet nostalgia, they still look both beautiful and valid.
With so deep a well to draw from, the designer can go many ways. While last season he gave into moments of flamboyance for evening with fluffy white blouses, now he maintained a quiet, at times disquieting, tone, save for all those fanciful hats with mile-long feather sprouts.
Saint Laurent sticks to the classic haute prescription for showing, developing specific sections for day, cocktail and evening. Naturally, he opened with that perfect tailoring — strong-toned jackets over slim black skirts, along with some fluid princess coats. He then moved into a series black dresses, often velvet, cut with various provocative, sometimes risque decollete. Saint Laurent did indeed make a grand statement for evening with lean, sophisticated draping and big, full skirts. Yet, with few exceptions, including a trio of appealingly flashy beaded jackets in harlequin diamonds over skirts, he preferred black to an in-depth expression of his glorious color sense. But then when the look is as elegant as a sheer, tight pleated bodice and graceful velvet skirt, who needs color?
CHRISTIAN LACROIX: Maestro or madman? Christian Lacroix is a little bit of both, and thank heaven. For his couture collection on Tuesday, Lacroix staged a genuine masterpiece, providing a breathtaking exclamation point in a too-calm season.
Lacroix’s madness lies in his powerful reverence rather than iconoclasm. Like the religious zealot, he will defend the holy doctrine of haute at all costs, and like the zealot, has been jeered and dismissed as bonkers. His is a pure and rarified world, one that still honors art for art’s sake, the kind of art that is joyous rather than jaded.
Unlike John Galliano’s Dior or Karl Lagerfeld’s Chanel, the prospect of a Lacroix show brings with it a certain lack of surprise. Lavishness and an indulgent embrace of fantasy are as much a given as impeccable technique; you don’t go looking for calm chez Lacroix. Still, in recent years the designer has wavered at times, paring down, weighing the importance of common notions of modernity, and as a result, some of his collections have felt forced. Not this time, as he let loose with an incredible ode to visual delight. One cannot attempt to describe these clothes, each piece an incredible concoction of multiple parts, crossed references and mind-boggling construction.
But do they make sense? The question seems a tad silly, despite all the gorgeous, wearable coats, blouses, skirts and even a jeans leitmotif. Reality takes different forms. Sure, the Gap is real. But so was the inescapable joy you felt leaving this show.
PHILIP TREACY: Oh, the grandeur of haute couture! Only in such a setting can someone pack a room full of editors, clients and the odd British bold-face, such as Jade Jagger, for a hat show. That’s especially true when, in the real world, such an accessory has gone the way of little white gloves — to fashion heaven. But then British milliner Philip Treacy is no ordinary hat-maker. And his hats are anything but. (Remember the lobster concoction Isabella Blow sported on her head a few seasons back?)
More conceptual than practical, his headgear has always defied any conventional definition of a hat. But, as if to clarify things, in the collection he showed on Tuesday evening, Treacy sent out an ironic headpiece that spelled out the word “hat” — for an effect that was both humorous and chic. Graphic shapes and embellishments were important themes for Treacy this season, who worked these into his best efforts: some interesting, some bizarre, but all exquitsitely executed. Treacy’s formula? Start with Tahitian pearls, Asprey and Gerard diamonds or Yokohama chicken feathers and combine them into his traditional show-stopping shapes — et voila, les chapeaux spectaculars. This time around, he showed plastic and straw discs molded and strapped to the head; a black and white optical version that resembled a hypnotic eye-chart; giant sprouts of plumes; a rectangular-shaped headpiece of mosquito net laden with ivory discs, and even a metallic wired number, resembling a giant Slinky toy that covered the head and arms. Amusing yes, but even Isabella Blow would have a tough time with this one.