After a signature collection that started the New York season in controversy, Marc Jacobs came back to close the Paris shows with a triumph. He took Louis Vuitton into the dark, sober territory he had sketched out in his own collection, but this time, there was nothing morose or clunky about it. Instead, it served as a concise, uplifting exploration of Parisian chic, wiping away the anxious question marks that have hovered over black, voluminous shapes, and around discussions of retro vs. modernism and restraint vs. opulence.
Making it look simple is the trick, and Jacobs did that right away by sending out an impeccable black Shetland suit with an elongated calf-length pencil skirt, the jacket's elegant balloon sleeves re-emphasizing the tininess of the waist. Next up: a cashmere double-breasted coat, swinging loose from the body, with sloped fifties shoulders and three-quarter-length sleeves, finished off with a wide-brim purple fedora. From then on, the audience was won over by the reworkings of bubble-backed, shawl-collared Balenciaga-era coats and spellbound by the intensely detailed decoration that began to appear: mink embroidery on a cape; herringbone tweed covered in a veiling of tulle; lizard patchworked on dresses and skirts. After Vuitton's circus of spangles and multicolored prints last season, it represented one of those defining moments when a designer puts his finger on what needs to change, and how to do it.
Afterward, amid the media scrum, Uma Thurman nailed the show's attraction. "It's luscious and structured, with regal sophistication and sexiness," she declared. "Splendid, whimsical things!" commented Selma Blair from the other side of the room. Jacobs, meanwhile, was busy explaining that the influences, researched by his team, had sprung from a trip to Vienna, where they'd immersed themselves in the Wiener Werkst¿tte turn-of-the-century Arts and Crafts movement to find a stricter, darker source of structure and texture.
Meanwhile, the other stars of the Vuitton showthe bagswere receiving their very own deluge of attention. The amazing confections of mink, python, embossed quilting, tulle, jet crystal beading, leather passementerie, gold bookbinder printing, Art Deco chains, and cabochons of semiprecious stones were lined up as if on an altar, where Japanese TV cameras were jostling for close-ups. Of course, this is the whole point of Louis Vuitton. One can only wish that the outstanding clothes of this collection will (finally) be as available in stores as the bags.