If all’s well that ends well, Alber Elbaz’s spring show for Lanvin would have been a blockbuster. He closed with a lineup of little satin shifts — each in different vibrant colors coming and going — the two joined by surprise side panels of flashy beaded embroideries. The effect was chic and young, a modern kind of sexy for a woman who likes to look like she didn’t try too hard to look amazing, her pretense secured by a remarkably crafted dress.
That, according to Elbaz, is the essence of design. “What is design anyway? What is the definition of design?” he waxed philosophic during a preview. “I think it’s how to translate or not translate, how to transform one dimension to three dimensions, to take a piece of flat fabric and give it a shape. You do it with darts, you do it with volume, you do it with drape. That, for me, is the work of design.”
The designer’s contemplative mind-set put construction front and center in this collection, along with another motivation. Because today, news of fashion and celebrity are so accessible, Elbaz suggested, “The whole world has become like one exhibitionist place. Every woman I know wants to look like a star.” He seemed determined to facilitate realization of that goal, which at times made for uncharacteristic gravitas — and a whole lot going on. Never a one-note guy, Elbaz prefers to populate his runway with that increasingly rare sighting within a single show: options. Here he funneled them through a Saint Laurent-cum-Eighties lens, coming up with arch tailoring; endless shoulder action; single sleeves and half-jackets; sudden bursts of glitz. Some of it looked great. A sleeveless jacket with a single white lapel over pants had a glamorous bravura; a pair of short skirts with jackets in black and white oozed chic. Other tailored pieces, however, were just too laborious. Elbaz was more consistent with softer looks — a swimsuit series including some paired with skirts or pants — and with his dresses. Both structured and fluid LBDs looked great, even if cowboy boots sometimes line-danced that greatness into left field.
Happily, Elbaz’s finale rocked, its feisty insouciance belying the intense construction of what seemed like little nothing dresses — and fabulously so.