Imagine, if you will, a Lanvin collection stripped bare of all beading, feathers, fringing, draping, volume and jewelry. Easier said than done, right? That's because all of those things, which of course sound like a successful recipe for a drag revue, are at this point so much a part of Lanvin's identity that imagining a collection without them is like not imagining a collection at all. But the lack of all those things is precisely what defines the Spring Summer 2011 collection that Alber Elbaz whipped up. Compared to recent offerings this one is uncharacteristically spare, and it's probably better off for it. Don't get me wrong, I love what Alber does with embellishment and drape, but he's been on that train of thought for a while now. I loved (and still love) his Fall collection, but like I said when I reviewed it, the pieces that I responded to most were the sharp, simple ones that opened the show. At the time they felt fresh and this collection sort of picks up where those looks left off. The clothes for spring have been almost universally stripped bare of anything extraneous and as a result the clothes, from the zippered day dresses worn with flat sandals to the billowing skirts worn with what appear to be bodysuits, read more like sportswear than anything Elbaz has done in a while. In fact many of the opening looks, with panels of draping inset onto a fitted dress or those aforementioned billowing skirts, almost make me think of modern dance wear, the kind of stuff Martha Graham would have worn. Actually looking at it now quite a few of the looks make me think of that. Pieces like that chocolate off-the-shoudler caftan, the full, billowing nylon parkas, and even the few short chiffon goddess dresses in colors like rust, nude and lichen could be costumes for some kind of performance.
In place of beading, volume or heavy draping there are details like zippers, leather belts or harnesses, and tight Fortuny-esque pleating. Even the colors are mostly on the subdued side, save for a middle passage that included neon yellow, hot pink, crimson, and plum. Much as I like some of the pieces from that section I don't really get the color choices. Compared to the rich mineral colors that opened and closed the show they seem kind of jarring, pretty as they might be. I also don't get the four suits comprised of a jacket, matching skirt and matching skinny pants. They seem really odd for the sake of being odd, and that's never a good thing. As usual the collection is pretty dress heavy, though a number of them could be worn for day as evidenced by the choice to pair them with flat sandals and shoulder bags. Overall the clothes were easy to like and seem like they'd be really easy to wear, and while I kind of feel that the pendulum might have swung a little too far into the direction of "practical", robbing the collection of some of it's potential lust-worthiness, the bottom line is that these are still pretty clothes. It must be said though that the collection is extremely disjointed, like it's unsure of what it's trying to communicate. I don't think that's ever been an issue with a Lanvin collection before, so it's a little hard to process. Still, I think this might prove to be the right direction to take the house in moving forward. I don't think anybody wants to see Lanvin lose any of it's luster because it refused to change.
all images from style.com