The words "Lanvin" and "tough" aren't usually found in the same sentence. Commanding, assertive, bold; all of them could be used to describe what Alber Elbaz sends out on his runway, but tough? Not exactly. That could be why I find the Lanvin Fall Winter 2010 collection exciting. There's a hardness and severity to it that I've never really seen in Alber's work before and I'm really liking it. It's as if he took all of his signatures--the loose draping, the rounded shoulders, the soft tailoring--and sharpened them up. Those flattering sheaths are more angular, darts and seams are reversed to contour the body, coats are shaped like an inverted triangle with exaggerated shoulders and pegged hems, and those goddess drapes are pressed flat into place to form pleats. Combined with the blunt cut jet black wigs each model wore and the aggressive looking accessories, Elbaz showed off a different side of the Lanvin woman, one that's more than a little bit dark. Even the flamboyant feather embellishments look more sinister than Swan Lake, with patches of ostrich or coque feather sprouting randomly out of the torso and trimming edges. Overall the impression was of a woman caught somewhere between civility and savagery, human and beast. With the predominantly dark color palette of black, browns and beige with hints of plum, burgundy, blood red and burnished gold or bronze, there was a subtle hint of tribalism to it. As the collection progressed it became louder and more aggressive until metal, feathers and sparkle were combined for an effect that was almost bombastic. It always impresses me that Elbaz never quite loses control of the elements he's working with. When it comes to embellishment, beads and feathers can easily go overboard and turn ugly quick, but somehow he manages to make it work, no matter how random or extreme they might seem. That's definitely easier said than done.
I'm sure a lot of people would gravitate to the more ornate evening stuff towards the end, and with good reason I suppose. There's just so much visual interest, from the sharply pleated lame to the tufts of ostrich feathers, they're the kind of clothes that beg to be touched. But for me the most exciting pieces come earlier in the collection. All of those plain dresses with their sharp, angular cuts and the coats with their domineering shoulder line were what really drew my attention. It's probably because, while the over the top embellished stuff at the end is fun to look at and probably fun to wear as well, the simple, graphic pieces feel fresher. That's the overall impression I'm left with from this, it's fresh, a little jolt of something different to keep people's attention after a few years of softness, volume and draping. I have a feeling that combined with the showroom collection this season's offerings will probably resonate with more customers than Alber's spiraling togas and filmy satin do. Women can't be goddesses every day, can they?
all images from Style.com