paris fashion week: lanvin

(images via style)

as much as most of the fashionies/critics/anyone still able to breathe (seriously, i had a friend who barely knew a thing about fashion who once happened upon a spread with alber elbaz and some of his designs, and after just a quick look was proclaiming, ‘that guy is badass!’) usually likes to exclaim and cry over the excellence that is lanvin, i’ve always tended towards a bit more ambivalent about it (see a/w 2010, a/w 2011, s/s 2012, a/w 2012, resort 2013, s/s 2013), albeit with occasional admissions that some particular collection was phenomenal.

well. maybe that has all changed for me with the drop of the label’s a/w 2013 collection at paris fashion week, however. for the first time, in…ever, i really got on board with what all the lanvin enthusiasts have long been about, and even some of the dresses that looked to be the simplest–like a relatively straightforward sleeveless midnight blue crew-necked midi-length sheath on kasia struss, for example–had me breathing in the rosewater air all around me just like the rest. goodness! is this what they’ve always been feeling?

but then again, there were more complicated looks aplenty, and amongst these many that could probably be considered on-par with couture, with the kind of delicate attention to the detail of the complex draping, ruffling, ruching, and the like that left your mouth rather wide in wonderment, as you puzzled over whether you’d known fabric could do that in the first place. not so much for me was the jewelry, which included various necklaces, brooches, and belt buckles emblazoned with the kind of cutesy messages we all of us put stickers of on our folders at school.

but i’ll tell you what: the fashionies will love them just the same, and we’ll see them (rather ironically) spawning knockoffs at forever 21, h&m and the like, as these stores giddy with glee that they’ve picked up on a seasonal trend rest unawares that they (and the teenage girls that sported them to begin with) were probably the impetus for the designs in the first place. is there a term for all of this? hmm. but do you know what!? i’m not going to dwell on it, as i liked the clothes themselves just too bloody much.

anyway, although i tended to like a lot of the black and navy quieter looks the best, such as a gorgeous v-necked velvet number on sigrid agren that perhaps brings out a bit of the inner princess, there were some louder exits that were equally compelling, like karmen pedaru’s marvelous glen plaid wool suit, with its little bit of slouch in the jacket and asymmetrical skirt, which kept a fairly stock item just the right amount of insouciant punky newness. and of course as a shout-out to mr. elbaz for including flats once again (we love him for this, yes we do!), those menswearstyle oxfords were just the bee’s knees, the cat’s pajamas…and everything else.

alors. shall we on with the critics, then? right, so to start us off, the nyt‘s cathy horyn reflected that “(h)e created a collection that reflects a diversity of personalities. And he just threw them at you: the tough, the snooty, the flowery, the sedate, the overdone. The opening looks included a silk tunic splashed with ditsy chiffon flowers and a severe coat dress worthy of a board meeting. The show got better and better. One second you were questioning the taste of a bouncy print dress piled with chains, including one that said ‘hot,’ and the next, a beautiful dress in pale rose silk appeared, draped to one side as if someone blew on the fabric.”

and according to wwd, “(t)he craft, and his long-held belief that fashion, his fashion at least, is first and foremost for the women who wear it. The fusion of those two tenets made for a breathtaking collection, one that, while utterly singular in its beauty and wistful mood, offered a rich variety of spectacular clothes. He started with a basic building block: a long-sleeve stocking dress over which he layered a range, from bustier dresses to coats. If one could identify a single item as dominant, it was the black dress, shown in renditions from the plainest charmeuse to moody tiered lace to a divine strapless dancing frock with pale organza rose at the hip.”

“What’s so interesting is that although refreshingly modern, the structure of the collection played out almost like an old-style fashion show that would run through daywear tailoring, silk day dresses, prints, cocktail dresses, embroidered special things, gowns, and wedding dresses,” declared us vogue. “Elbaz understands, more than many another, that women are complex and can feel like one thing at one moment (like a plain sleeveless dress), or a dress or blouse bristling with conceptual multicolored plastic flowers up and down the arms, the next. The ultimate magic of this collection is that it’s so wonderfully hard to pin down and describe.”

and the washington post reported that the “diverse looks saw references that spanned from the furs of the 30s, the satins of the 40s, the full skirts of the 50s — right up to the inflated sleeves and shoulders of cutting-edge trends. Several satin looks even fused the flora and fauna of the garden, with dragonflies, moths, beetles and butterflies. With the myriad references, it’s little wonder several of the model worn gold necklaces with featuring the word ‘help.’ There were some sublime furs, dip-dyed jackets and the seemingly endless boas really conjured up pre-Second World War glamor.”

elsewhere, the daily beast described how “wearing flat shoes, emblematic of this collection for ultra-feminine women unafraid of their masculine side, Elbaz sent out a gorgeous, sophisticated-yet-easy line up, with eye-catching twists to the designs. There was a corset-like effect for a cocktail dress and two-tone chic fur jackets, and insects crawling across the surfaces of dresses in 3D. More mannish included a military-style ensemble and a suit created in men’s tailoring fabrics, with a skirt which swished across the body, with a wrap around jacket, proving the perfect answer for those tomboy moments.”

and style announced that “(a) teenage atmosphere permeated the collection, a schoolgirlish view that avoided the saccharine and cute and could apply to all ages. This was most noticeable in the shoes: Gone were the ballet flats; in their place, a scaled-down version of a men’s oxford. It was the sign that a much tougher girl was emerging for Elbaz this evening. She was no longer wearing prissy slippers, and her new footwear altered the entire silhouette. In one of the many standout looks, featuring a godet skirt and a top encrusted with winged insect appliqués and embroideries, the shoes transformed the meaning of such a mélange to one of a warped bobby-soxer. That was reinforced by the reams of thick gold chains, a constant motif in the collection, along with the letters that dangled from them. In this instance they spelled ‘cool.'”

“‘this is an elaboratory collection,’ explained Elbaz post-show, himself elaborating that he treated this collection like real luxury – because couture is experimental too and he wanted to show that it’s relevant and can be worn everyday,” related uk vogue, thereby helped to elucidate why the show was awesome. “His answer to this? Put flat shoes with those prom-style strapless dresses and Thirties slips, pleated skirts and femme fatale looks, complete with fur stole thrown over a shoulder. And when it comes to masculine tailoring, again with that Thirties androgynous underpinning, add a shiny, sparkly heel. Mix it up, keep it relevant and right for now.”

then, elle chimed in that “(n)ot a bride,’ said Alber Elbaz after his show, ‘No, more of an angel.’ The designer said he’d wanted to take time over this collection, get back to the spirit of what it is to be a Parisian couture house, a laboratory of ideas, away from the concept of a ‘global brand’. He wanted the craftsmanship to shine – and it did. He wanted it to feel intimate and ageless, emotional and precious; he wanted us to think and feel, if only for the duration of the show, about how clothes should make us feel: ‘Happy’, being one of the words he chose to emblazon in gold around the neck of one model. And ‘Love’.”

and, finally, there was the iht‘s suzy menkes, in her standard manner nailing down that “(s)uch a diverse vision offers a great deal of choice. But Mr. Elbaz has put his stamp on so many looks at Lanvin that he seems to own them. Even the choice of flat, laced-up shoes rather than high heels suggests him as an ally to women. There is also a feeling that the variety of a fox fur stole dangling around the neck, a plain, tailored coat, a black dress or a flowery print are all focusing on the same person with changing moods. The designer has the skill to ground his collections in reality yet allow them to soar — and that is why a few people were shedding tears of joy as the crowd roared its approval.”

(watch the full fashion show video here)

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