PARIS: THE PLEASURE PRINCIPLE
ONE OF THE GREATEST PLEASURES FOR A DESIGNER IS JUST TO DO WHAT COMES NATURALLY. AND THREE TOP TALENTS DID PRECISELY THAT AS THE PARIS SHOWS CAME TO A CLOSE. MARC JACOBS’S COLLECTION FOR LOUIS VUITTON WAS FULL OF FAB, DISTINCTIVE ITEMS, WHILE JOHN GALLIANO’S SIGNATURE LINE FEATURED HIS MORE-IS-MORE, CLASHING LAYERS AND KARL LAGERFELD SHOWED OFF HIS SUPERB TAILORING SKILLS FOR LAGERFELD GALLERY.

Louis Vuitton: One of the atypical aspects of this weirdest of collections seasons — along with CNN addiction, rumor-mongering and Cipro quests — was the postponement of the Louis Vuitton show from its original slot on Monday to Friday afternoon. Delayed in New York for a week after Sept. 11, Marc Jacobs simply couldn’t get ready in time for the original date. His move miffed many a Friday flyer, some opting to miss the show rather than risk missing a flight. Others scrambled to reschedule early flights to the 6:55 Air France, requesting seats by the door of the Vuitton show to facilitate speedy egress. They did so to their own delight, as Jacobs offered a witty retro trip, one that clearly played to the joie de vivre, rather than the brooding, side of the fashion moment.
While, over the years, the designer’s runways have clearly documented his love for the Seventies, he still seems to find endless fresh aspects of that decade. Here, he worked in an arts-and-crafts angle, because, as he said before the show, “I didn’t get enough of that in New York.”
Jacobs’s artsy girl is a sweet going-to-San Francisco type, with butterflies rather than flowers in her hair and a penchant for decoration. Why shouldn’t she cloak her gentle nature in a little flamboyance, a coat in lavishly appliqued gold lame or another in bright white leather with joyful floral embroidery? Or paste giant jewels around the neckline of a printed silk top? She can also go for the slither of a scalloped-edged silver python skirt and pastel python-trimmed suede suits and jackets, puff-sleeved, peplumed and curvy enough to bring out a flower child’s inner coquette. This item-orientation harkened back to some of Marc’s earlier work, and it made for plenty of great surprises.
Still, since lame is not a wardrobe staple, even in the tony world of Vuitton, Jacobs also showed plenty of sturdy cottons, including twills and hand-loomed denim.
These worked to smart effect, save for a few pieces — a smock and a loose shirt, for example — that will look a tad dowdy on all but the youngest of Jacobs’s regulars. He put flared pants and culottes with dreamy new cashmeres, either hand-crocheted or light-as-air pointelle, and he gave the denim a feminine turn in ingenue gowns, colorblocked in earth tones. In fact, Jacobs showed more long dresses than ever — hippie paisleys, sexy jerseys and a white floral-printed lame gown under a chiffon veil that looked both dazzling and demure.
As for the accessories — spectacular, in the butterfly motif that winged its way through leather or metal barrettes and glass cabochon brooches. Obviously, Jacobs knows he hit on a good thing when he collaborated with Stephen Sprouse for those graffiti bags last spring, and this season, he engaged illustrator Julie Verhoeven to develop delightful naive collage pictorials to sweeten up the classic monogram. As if those weren’t whimsical enough, little shoulder bags came shaped like little beasts — owl, mouse, toad — perhaps the ultimate expression of Jacobs’s current mindset. “Fashion,” he mused, “it’s all escapism, anyway.”

John Galliano: To say that more is more chez Galliano is a colossal understatement. Here is a man whose reputation is based not only on magnificent clothes, but on his ability to redefine the maximum. While fans may remember Galliano as the provocateur who transported them beyond the borders of fantasyland, in the past few seasons he has taken a much different tack. Gone is the elaborate scenery — circus encampments, lands of snow, cardboard carnival floats. What remains are some great clothes and Galliano’s relentlessly kooky styling.
In support of his chaos theory, the designer’s models stomped down the runway — as they’ve been stomping for several seasons now — piled high with all manner of clashing layers. An adorable hooded argyle sweater was shown under a denim jacket and mis-matched with a full patchwork print chiffon skirt. Out came delicate chiffon dresses detailed with bungee cords that dangled in bunches at their hips, slick leather jackets and a trenchcoat bordered with tribal beading. These pieces all looked great, like Galliano classics.
Part of the fun of the rest, which had a certain dressed-in-the-dark quality, was in imagining the woman who might wear, say, a full-figured, barrel-legged suit or a logo-patched baggy denim jumpsuit, done in homage to the pit crews at the Indianapolis 500. Where she might be headed in one of those get-ups is anyone’s guess, but what we do know about Galliano’s customer is that she’s bound to be confident and well-indulged. After all, who else would have enough room in her closet or the backbone to become a full-fledged Galliano girl?

Lagerfeld Gallery: In just four seasons, Karl Lagerfeld has managed to create a unique look for his experimental label, Lagerfeld Gallery. Where Chanel is more sweet and whimsical, the designer’s signature collection is infused with a something a little sexier, more graphic and harder. For spring, he presented this abstracted femininity, mostly in black, by layering sheer fabrics and contrasting them with the tougher stuff. He played constructed pieces against gauzy chiffons, pairing a peaked shoulder boss-lady jacket or another in slick banded leather with filmy skirts which were worn over gathered gauzy leggings.
The stark look of the collection showed off the genius of Lagerfeld’s tailoring. But while the collection’s attitude runs towards the spare, he has never been about boring basics. Check out his T-shirts, for example. Their sleeves twist gently to create a sash across the back. For evening, his cool attitude even counterbalanced the natural romance of lace. Instead of going all gooey, his layered tulle slipdress and black lace capelet were a case study in the seduction of simplicity.

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