RIGHT ON THE MONEY
THIS SEASON, PARIS JUST MIGHT PROVE THAT THE CUSTOMER’S ALWAYS RIGHT. LACROIX TURNED DOWN THE VOLUME TO A LOW, CROWD-PLEASING ROAR, WHILE MARGIELA PRESENTED MORE OF THOSE BANKABLE HERMES CLASSICS AND AT BALMAIN, A RETURN TO SIMPLICITY OUGHT TO LURE THE LADIES BACK.

Christian Lacroix: Denizens of the fashion world have come down with a serious case of Eighties mania. But if anyone has a right to rehash that decade, it’s Christian Lacroix. He is one of the giants who made the era worth a second look, after all. While he revisited some of his classics for spring, he also rolled up his sleeves and did some serious work on this collection — namely by toning things down. Gone were both the overtly baroque elements that tended to date his work, and the uncharacteristic harshness of last season’s collection.
Of course, the colors were wild, and Lacroix indulged in the elaborate fabric plays of which he is the master. But his new look played the aggressive against the whimsical, sometimes working both sides at once. A tuxedo jacket was pulled off the shoulders and reworked into a Tough Chic cocktail dress, for example, while another dress with sharp, cliff-hanger shoulders was cut in a sweet floral and tied with an obi sash, and an Amish-type quilted fabric softened the sharp angles of a minidress.
Other combinations were just plain wacky, but for the most part, the best of Lacroix’s wit and technical prowess were on parade. And with the collection’s bright new sexiness at play, one can imagine many of these little numbers making their way into the closets of New York’s trendy young socialites. Could this refined mix herald the dawning of a new era? Why not.

Hermes: Beautiful, luxe clothes of the quiet kind. It’s the direction that Martin Margiela has paved for himself at Hermes, and the formula seems to be working. The house’s chairman, Jean-Louis Dumas, says the relationship couldn’t be stronger, and that he’s delighted with Margiela’s cool, refined look.
Such conviction is admirable, especially in a fickle world fixated on trends and staying on the edge. The truth is, when it comes to their wardrobes, most women don’t want to go anywhere near the edge, especially women who favor the tony, very personal serenity provided by a house like Hermes. The anti-fashion approach Margiela has clung to here may seem defiant within the industry, but for these women, it makes great sense. For spring, they will find plenty to love in his perfect cuts, delivered with that essential Hermes quality.
The mood — sporty, of course; the classic horsewoman is anything but frou-frou. She’s just the type for jaunty canvas jackets, relaxed pants and those dreamy cashmere twinsets. As for the great leathers, Margiela broadened their range with side-wrapped suede dresses and a rich red leather trench. And if, along the way, the mood reflects spring’s Butch Chic sensibility — well, there’s nothing wrong with a little accidental fashion, even for the most discreet of women.

Balmain: After three tumultuous seasons, the house of Balmain was shaken right down to its foundation — but it’s still standing. Now the collection is in the hands of a design team, which included Tomaso Stefanelli, and they attempted to court the real Balmain customer with just the kind of tame fare that could lure her back. A black coat trimmed with white piping, a simple shirtdress and a draped jersey dress that was right on the money were tempting for their simplicity, while a satin keyhole gown showed off the team’s talent with a flourish. Not to mention a whole slew of candy-colored, tiered chiffon dresses that were steaming. The Balmain logo T-shirt — thankfully, minus last season’s obscenities — reappeared, this time under tailored jackets and flouncy skirts.
According to Balmain managing director Georgina Brandolini, Stefanelli will now officially take responsibility for the ready-to-wear collection, though he also has his own signature collection in Italy. Perhaps the move will get the company back on solid footing.

Lanvin: After trying for some time to carve a niche for the house of Lanvin, Christina Ortiz hit with a collection brimming with both sex appeal and charm. Leaving behind her artsy sentiments, she gave girls clothes that they will want to wear. Take, for example, the crisp man’s shirt and suede pants that opened the show. It was easy and androgynous on one hand, but sizzling when left unbuttoned and worn with a diamante plunge-neck bodysuit underneath, with a sensuous sliver of shine peeking through. Other examples also abounded: fine cotton T-shirts, trimmed in rhinestones and cut wide at the neck; satin trousers, full-legged and cuffed; wrap suede jackets with itsy-bitsy gym shorts, and Brooks Brothers-inspired preppy striped shirts and sleek pantsuits.

Romeo Gigli: He may have moved away from Morocco, but Romeo Gigli hasn’t made it to his new destination yet. To his credit, the collection included some great pleated skirts and tiered peasant skirts, worn with striped T-shirts or wrapped shirts. But it takes more than that to revive a brand, which is just what IT Holdings — Gigli’s parent company, which also owns Malo and Exte — is hoping to do. The tailoring and production are as good as they ever were, but the execs at ITH have defined their goals for Gigli as “research and experimentation.” A bit of both is in order.

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