Sunday, October 5, 2008

La Vie en Rose Colored Glasses...

It's a wrap. The Spring/Summer 2009 collections have come to a close and now the world can know what they'll be wearing next season...or something like that.

I wish I could say that the designers whose job it was to make what will ultimately be the last impression of S/S 09 hit it out of the park, but like a lot of what's been shown this season I'm left wanting something more.


Alber Elbaz has been fashion's darling since he showed his first collection for Lanvin back in the winter of 2002, and since then his reputation has grown so exponentially that he's one of the only designers I can think of where almost anybody, regardless of what their personal taste and style usually is, can find something to like about his work. It's universal in it's appeal, but strangely, it still manages to demand respect as some of the highest of high fashion. His clothes are easy to comprehend, but because Mr. Elbaz is so thoughtful and contemporary in his approach to dressing women his clothes don't become banal. His light hand for draping, soft tailoring and intricate detail ensure that his clothes are, above all, beautiful. Because of his simple approach to fashion, and all of the things he's managed to contribute to it, he is arguably one of the most influential designers working today.

Last season, Elbaz reigned in a lot of the volume and drapery he's known for in favor of something more fitted and more graphic. He based that entire collection on using ribbons of fabric to construct clothes. In print it sounds very pretty and very feminine, even girly, but it was quite the opposite, in fact, it was down right erotic. Because the collection was comprised of only black, navy, brown and beige the ribbons had a hard edge. I actually think that ribbons and bows are much more suggestive than anyone would have you believe, they're delicate and flirty on the surface, but in truth they have a kinky, sexual undercurrent that people probably wouldn't notice.....unless they've've got the imagination that is.

This season however Elbaz went back to what he is more known for, trading his curvacious lines of last season for something colorful, voluminous and more overtly pretty. Many of the opening looks revisited the voluminous, vaguely leg-o-mutton sleeves that he first played with for F/W 2007, though here they were less exaggerated. Paired with tulip, pencil or gathered skirts that were cut above the knee, tapered cigarette pants or as the top half of a shift dress they looked beautiful and are certainly on trend with all of the attention shoulder pads have been getting, but they were familiar Lanvin territory.

Mixed in with all of the color and volume were some of Elbaz's signature easy classics like unstructured jackets, trench coats and LBD's. I especially loved a grey textured jacket/skirt combo with voluminous hips and cinched waist, and a sexy off the shoulder gathered mini-dress that, unfortunately, got drowned out by some of the more colorful and decorative looks.

For evening it was back to color, with ensembles that often paired two clashing shades of the same color together; red-orange with scarlet, maroon with burgundy, cobalt and sky blue. It made me think of Saint Laurent and how he mixed colors it shocking and sometimes odd combinations, but that's not surprising since Mr. Elbaz was a protege of Mr. Saint Laurent's, Since YSL's current designer, Stefano Pilati, seems so hesitant to use any daring colors in his collections, somebody needs to carry on the legacy.

Overall this wasn't Alber's most powerful or directional show, it was more of a re-evaluation of some of his recent collections. The thing about Elbaz is he's not the type of designer who's trying to reinvent the wheel every season. His approach is to zero in on one thing, a detail, a shape, a feeling, and build an entire seasonal wardrobe out of it that can easily integrate itself into any number of women's closets. He's at his best when he focuses on something as unassuming and minute as a length of ribbon, the shape of a sleeve or the movement of the fabric. This season he threw a few too many ideas, but not enough work, into the mix which is probably why this isn't his best collection. Even still, it's a testament to his talent that even when his collection isn't great, it's still pretty damn beautiful.

Louis Vuitton

Marc Jacobs' signature collections are viewed by many in the industry as being the unofficial start of the fashion season. His collections for Vuitton are among the last collections to be shown on the major fashion calendar, and for that reason can be viewed as the end of the fashion season. The interesting thing is that these two collections, more often than not, are coming from a very similar place. I know what you're thinking, they're by the same designer so it's kind of a no-brainer that they're similar looking. But Marc makes no secret of the fact that out of the three collections he does per season, his signature line is the one that's the most personal. In relation to this, Vuitton is usually a more perfected, more exaggerated and more concise essay on what Jacobs was thinking. Even with that knowledge though, you can never really predict what Vuitton will look like.

Inevitably, one of the two collections ends up being better than the other, if only by a fraction. This season, for me at least, his first outing was more powerful and more clear than his second. The Marc Jacobs show was easily the highlight of New York fashion week and up til now is one of few collections that I actually felt really enthusiastic about. It was joyous, nostalgic, optimistic and had some really fantastic clothes hidden in the layers of references that comprised each look. That collection was vaguely described by Jacobs as being about America, though many people saw references to Yves Saint Laurent. For Vuitton, Jacobs and his team were in fact inspired by Yves Saint Laurent, not surprising since the late master seems to have been on a lot of designers' minds this season. There was one comment on the Fashion Spot that went so far as to say that Vuitton looked more like Saint Laurent than the recent Saint Laurent collection did....and in a way, I have to agree. Each look presented would require an entire entry just to describe it head to toe, so here's the highlights reel; Opium collection, decadence, Africa, glamour, strong shoulders, bold color, mix and match, big jewelry, tight waists, Obi belts, full trousers, lots of leg, feathers, shiny, the 70's, the 80's, patchwork, kimono, Josephine Baker, Harlem Renaissance.... i'm probably missing something. Each outfit was styled to the hilt, to the point that the bags, LV's bread and butter, could almost go unnoticed. I mean, how could something as mundane as a bag possibly compete with an outfit that comes with everything but the kitchen sink?

And it just kept coming, multilayered references mixed together in an array of madness and extravagance.

At first, I was more than a little overwhelmed. It's a lot to take in, and tbh it reminded me of his S/S 06 Vuitton collection in spirit, which I despised at the time and I'm still not fond of it to this day. But now that I've been looking at the pictures for a while, it's started to grow on me. It's certainly one of the more "alive" collections we've seen this season, and for that alone you have to appreciate it. Even though I think his first outing was more successful at getting his point across, it was nice to see a designer embrace all of the things that make fashion so captivating and so exciting. But above all it was nice to see a little bit of optimism, even if it's completely irrational.

all images from and

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