MILITARY MIGHT, TOUGH CHIC AND SAFARI STYLE
MARC JACOBS CREATED A FASHION ARMY FOR VUITTON, ALEXANDER MCQUEEN SHOWED HIS EXPERTISE WITH THE MASCULINE-FEMININE MIX AT GIVENCHY AND MICHAEL KORS WENT ON A CHIC SAFARI FOR CELINE AS THE PARIS SPRING COLLECTIONS CONTINUED.

Louis Vuitton: Guns and roses. And graffiti — but not too much. Survivor chic is in the air, at Louis Vuitton, in more ways than one. Most obviously, it’s all over the runways in military displays delivered with varying degrees of aggression. At Vuitton, Marc Jacobs romanced the mood with a Fifties-Eighties crossover that at its best was great, even if the girlish troops lost their focus well before the show ended.
As for Vuitton’s other survivor story: how ’bout those Stephen Sprouse graffiti prints? Still crazy — and fabulously so — after all these years. In a brilliant move, Jacobs recruited Sprouse, New York fashion’s ultimate Eighties antihero, to collaborate on spring accessories and prints. Marc then opened the show with a lineup of some of the handsomest bellmen in Paris, who stormed the runway laden with piles of classic LV-monogrammed luggage scribbled over in Sprouse’s famous Day-Glo lettering. One has to admire Jacobs for signing on so high profile of a name, and Vuitton, for allowing in-house iconoclasm to flourish so freely. Then again, its sales have skyrocketed since Jacobs arrived, so why fuss over a shattered icon or two? But Marc, we wanted to see more!
Compared with the vibrant piles of bags back in the design room, what hit the runway looked relatively subdued. Not that a tight little flounced-hem hobble skirt and bra top are quiet, mind you. As for the military motif, little officer’s jackets topped skirts either slim or full and flippy, in Sprouse’s big rose print. There were colorful sweaters, and Marc may have launched a new basic in featherweight knit tops and dresses, made long and worn all bunched up.
Somewhere along the line, however, Jacobs drifted. While his early military maneuvers were executed to perfection, the finale meandered aimlessly, with a few looks turning tricky. But no matter. Vuitton executives expect those big increases to continue, and this collection will do plenty for the war-chest effort.

Givenchy: Alexander McQueen doesn’t make clothes for shrinking violets, either at his own house or for Givenchy. While in London his startling invention and design bravado have made him the top gun of that city’s fashion elite, at Givenchy, he has struggled to find the right look for the house.
McQueen just may be on the road to changing that irritating reality. In his best collection yet for Givenchy, he hit on a level of chic aggression that seems right, a look that, minus the bold swagger and plastic fedoras, will easily turn, if not soft, then manageable.
It’s hardly fair to say that McQueen picked up on the season’s gender play, since the female-male dichotomy and tough chic are longtime hallmarks of his work. Here, he worked that mood to great advantage. Who else could craft Fifties-style skirts out of tightly packed, multicolored ruffles and make them look a little bit butch? McQueen did it with ease, often pairing them with shirts that had a little of Hank Williams to their frontal fluff, or with plainer fare, cinched — by the designer’s own admission — with wide Alaia belts. “I admitted that back during the couture,” he said of his nod to one of the season’s most important influences.
But butch or babe, such volume has its limits, so McQueen also went for hobble shapes in sultry “Butterfield 8” dresses and super-slim skirts, some paired with suede shirtjackets belted at the waist for a blouson effect. And he loves corsetry, showing his boned beauties with relative modesty under jackets, or with garters in full view under sheer ruffled shirts for the dominatrix with a girlish side.
As for the tailoring — McQueen’s is hardly relaxed; he’s always cut a mean suit. But recently, he’s eased up a bit and it’s made all the difference — these suits are as wearable as they are slick. On the other hand, many people will consider his palette of choice — strong on combinations of acid green, red and brown — a tad caustic. But, we said these clothes weren’t for shrinking violets.

Celine: Michael Kors is one smart storyteller. Season after season, his program notes chronicle the exploits of a rich girl on the go. But unlike others who spin witty yarns to accompany their collections, his heroine’s destinations always require a wardrobe of smart, simple clothes, the kind that will take her around the world but stay firmly rooted in good old American practicality.
Last season, at both Celine and Michael Kors, that woman indulged a socialite fantasy, which she’s happily worked out of her system. It aged her, and who past the age of fake IDs needs that? Now, at Celine, she’s back in sporty mode, as in “Bowie and Iman take off with Bianca and Beard for the ultimate luxe safari.”
Sound a tad similar to the desert diva show Kors presented for his signature line in New York a few weeks ago? Some in the audience found it too much so. Yet this collection had a brasher feel, as Kors engaged the butch-babe duality with a naturalness many others miss: This woman isn’t conscious of the ebb and flow, it just happens. She loves the contrast of roomy tops over tiny skirts, or little tanks with relaxed pants. Throughout, she crosses in military touches, and favors an earthy palette of olives, browns and khakis, along with plenty of suede and distressed leather — it is a safari, after all. And when it’s really time to relax, what’s cozier than her cashmere sweats? Kors mixed in other luxuries as well, washing a chunky turtleneck in gold leaf, for example.
True, he could have added a few more surprises, and he should have said no to the jeans with torn-off pockets — Margiela got there first. But most of these clothes will be just right on safari, and, more importantly, in the urban jungle as well.

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