THE TALK OF PARIS
THE FASHION WORLD WAS ALL ABUZZ OVER TOM FORD’S VERY FIRST COLLECTION FOR YVES SAINT LAURENT — WHICH WAS ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY IN BLACK AND WHITE. MARTIN MARGIELA, FOR HIS PART, DELIVERED SOME SURPRISINGLY COMMERCIAL LOOKS THIS SEASON.

Yves Saint Laurent: Beautiful, yes. Perfect, no. But to focus on the imperfections in Tom Ford’s debut at Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche is beside the point. What matters is that Ford established his blueprint for building on the Saint Laurent legacy, with an approach that was not only respectful, but more conservative than many people had expected. Since day one, Tom had tried hard to diffuse expectations, and as the countdown ticked, he took to saying, “The spaceship is not going to land.” He also talked about “distilling” the essence of Saint Laurent to make the look more accessible for today. At their best, these clothes dripped with a chic rooted unmistakably in the master’s tradition but sparkling with currency — timely manifestations of timeless themes. Still, the buzz over the second coming of Saint Laurent sent expectations soaring, and some in the audience left disappointed.
Ford flagged his message even before his fabulous Betty Catroux lookalikes hit the runway, their hair side-parted and falling over one eye, their lips ultra-shiny. As guests arrived, they strolled the vast courtyard of the Rodin Museum on a long black carpet flanked by a central-casting honor guard of young men and women dressed in sultry versions of le smoking. Inside the elaborate building Ford had constructed for the show, the mingling scents of jasmine and myrrh — two key elements of Saint Laurent’s Opium — filled the air.
Of course, it made all the sense in the world for Ford to start with the smoking, which he showed over and over, sometimes cinched with a wide waist wrap, sometimes over a wide U-neck body suit. These looked spectacular, as did many of his dresses, in white with a bandage-wrapped waist or in flirty black tulle.
Ford’s blueprint for the new Saint Laurent clearly indicated the same slick restraint that has most often marked his work at Gucci. But it left some questions unanswered. For example, what about clothes for the light of day? The little dresses are for relaxed evenings, or “cocktail,” as they used to say. On a broader scale, how will Tom deal with the vast range of the Saint Laurent archives? Diversity has never been his thing, nor has color (his only digressions from black and white came in the form of glistening metallic shoes). And he isn’t known for the kind of elaborate theatrical tendencies in which Saint Laurent reveled with such apparent ease. In fact, when Ford tested more flamboyant turf with feathers and geometric bi-level hems, the trickery got the better of him. As for accessories, his obvious expertise aside, he just didn’t go there, preferring to de-tchochke the look in the name of modernity.
Modern it was. And if it lacked the razzle-dazzle some hoped for, Ford’s premier Saint Laurent collection still oozed glamour of a highly sensual — and salable — sort.

Martin Margiela: Martin Margiela showing at the Louvre? How establishment for someone so antiestablishment! Was the abandoned train station on the outskirts of Paris he used for his show last season booked for the evening? And if he’s showing at the most conventional of venues, what other commercial possibilities were we in store for? High heels and a pop music soundtrack? With Margiela, you can only guess.
Expectations aside, Martin is always one to surprise. And this time he shocked the fashion crowd with a civilized, intimate show just minutes from their hotels. No, there were no high-heeled shoes — not yet — just his usual hoof-toed boots and the occasional stocking shoe, but what he did deliver was a wonderful collection, infused with the ingenuity and creativity that has become the Margiela stamp.
For spring, he loved living large. All the exaggeration of last season’s oversized clothes was here again, but they were now reworked and cut with cool tailoring in mind. There were jackets aplenty, starting with the first one out, pinstriped and big, with lapels of clothing labels removed from vintage suits. The Frank Sinatra-esque pantsuit, a witty take on spring’s Butch Chic, looked equally fantastic.
There was also the roomy red cardigan layered over a white shirt and gray trousers with suspenders, which bubbled with all the same cheeriness that Julie London had, belting her up-tempo songs on the soundtrack. And those great trenchcoats, with the lapels lopped off this time, were tossed over dresses big enough for two. Ditto for his pleated skirt, traditional in its shape, but exaggerated in its width — so wide, the models wore it with their hands stretching it out on either side. Unwearable, yes, if that’s the way you choose to tackle it, but doubled over and wrapped, it will make a beautiful skirt when it hits the stores.

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