EIGHTIES BRAVADO, URBAN FLASH AND HIGH GLAM
AS THE PARIS FALL COLLECTIONS SWITCHED INTO HIGH GEAR, MARC JACOBS GAVE THE EIGHTIES A WHOLE NEW SPIN FOR VUITTON, WHILE JOHN GALLIANO EMBRACED URBAN FLAMBOYANCE FOR DIOR AND VALENTINO CREATED GLAMOUR SANS EXCESS GLITZ.
Louis Vuitton: What must Azzedine Alaia have been thinking? Sitting in the front row at Louis Vuitton, Alaia watched as themes he championed way back when paraded by in a strong display of skill and savvy. But then, in the rollicking development of his new signature for the house, Marc Jacobs has flirted with the Eighties for a while. It was only a matter of time before he took the fascination to new lengths. It’s an era he knows, lived through and in which he started to work.
Jacobs makes no bones about the collection’s references, for which he ferreted out reminders while flipping through issues of the long-defunct “Jill” magazine now strewn around his office. As for the Alaia breeze, Marc’s a longtime admirer. And it offered the perfect starting point, because as we’ve seen recently, amusing though it is, Eighties revivalism poses considerable challenges, especially if one wants to move beyond the camp notion of dressing for excess. What feels right now are the decade’s confidence and bravado, fueled by the mundane reality that clothes have been in skinny Seventies mode for too long.
Many designers have addressed the problem by adding volume on the bottom in soft-skirted shapes, but Jacobs went in another direction. He still cut everything lean, mean and racy on the bottom, but eased up on top, in an inverted pyramid shape that started with rounded shoulders and a belted, dropped torso. And remember the batwing sleeve? It’s back on everything from sweaters to lame blouses to jackets and coats, and no, it wasn’t scary. In fact, the strength of this collection lay in its control, as, almost without fail, Jacobs knew when to say when.
For all of its overt strokes — hardware, zippers, leather and mink motorcycle looks — in some ways, Jacobs held back with this collection. The humor was more subtle, and clearly, he’s no longer feeling for logos, disguising the few he showed in a mini-monogram on a black raincoat as well as in unreadable plastic paillettes for short evening dresses, or cocktail shakers, as we used to call them. The logoed exception: accessories — handbags only, no luggage — that happily flashed chrome LV hardware. Jacobs also keyed-down his palette, relying on neutral beiges, grays and blues with no obvious shots of color. And somehow, it all felt very French, from the obvious — the berets that went with just about everything — to the attitude of sexy sophistication.
Christian Dior: “Super fly girls. Sexy ballerinas. Drippin’ hot chocolate maidens.” How’s that for a lineup? Actually, those were character notes to models written on a board backstage at the Christian Dior show on Tuesday, three lines that perfectly summed up the collection John Galliano showed for fall — sexy, wild, witty and completely over the top.
It was also filled with great clothes. Rather than take off in a new direction, Galliano chose to build on the themes of his Dior spring ready-to-wear and couture collections. In October, he sent out an ode to Lauryn Hill while introducing a slew of logo motifs. Here he picked up where he left off then, embracing ghetto-fabulous style and its flamboyant icons, such as Missy Elliott, Mary J. Blige and Foxy Brown. At the heart of it all was a trait those women share with Galliano — a glorious disregard for discretion. The look: More, more, more — diva furs, diamond “CDs” instead of buttons, flashy leathers, lace-up gold stiletto boots. There was acid-washed denim, real or faux, the latter in everything from shearling to sparkles; sable, chinchilla and fox, all layered over leather; bold colors and bolder attitude. Bring it all on, baby — these girls are hot to trot, and they want to leave a flurry of fabulousness in their wake.
Of course, sometimes even the most audacious types step into familiar territory. Logomania won’t last forever, but Galliano is not ready to give it up yet, splattering just about everything with assorted Dior insignia. Nor is he ready to retire the controversy, and accompanying hype, of his spring couture, when he ruffled feathers with a collection inspired by the style of homeless people and insane asylum patients. So he revisited the topic with crazed ballerinas decked in tattered-and-torn sweaters over newspaper-print dresses and undies. Only here, the paper was Christian Dior Daily, and the headlines, about Galliano himself. An amusing joke at his own expense, but when he let it go on too long, it wore as thin as those delicate pink dancing frocks.
Valentino: Smart chic. Emphasis on the smart. Because at a time when it would have been so easy for Valentino to give in to the temptations of unbridled glitz, he chose instead to indulge with caution. The result was a fall collection that achieved high glam minus some of the more costumey trappings that have become one of the hallmarks of the season.
That’s not to say that the Val gal wants to be caught undone. For her, style is a way of life, and she will love his chic suits in all kinds of shapes, both lean and full-skirted, as well as his look-at-me leathers and his sporty trenchcoats over pants. But in her world, as in Valentino’s world, low key is a passing mood rather than a lifestyle, so he added plenty of alluring embellishments, from artsy flourishes — jackets in macrame or shearling veiled in embroidered lace — to more overt expressions of opulence in big fluffy fur collars.
At night, however, Valentino’s attentions wandered in a lineup that was simply too vast. True, when a woman goes shopping, especially for an evening dress, she’s looking for one special piece and doesn’t care a hoot about the cohesiveness of the collection. Still, one wants to get a feeling for the designer’s primary message, and Valentino’s was difficult to distill amidst all the ruffles, frills and flou. Nevertheless, there were plenty of alluring choices, including a series of provocative black laces and chiffons that would turn heads in any crowd.