A little backstory: The latest Vuitton collection was looking a bit lackluster till Marc Jacobs' trusted menswear lieutenant Paul Helbers began waxing enthusiastic over a 1963 movie called Mélodie en sous-sol, about a gang of ne'er-do-wells swanking up as big-timers to rob the casino in Cannes. It starred Alain Delon and Jean Gabin, and it would be hard to find two screen icons more "male" (in France at least). But Helbers' own take on the butchness of his inspirations was slightly more ambiguous. "If they steal anything, they steal a heart," he said after the show. That statement was poignanteven romanticenough that one might have wished for a little more of its essence in the actual collection.
As things stood, Helbers and his team skillfully, wittily adapted elements of the bank robbers' tale. (The aerodynamic "getaway" hair was just the start.) The faded-but-rich color palette was lifted from the tones on old banknotes. A pattern engraved on a suit or a jean jacket duplicated the patterns on paper money. Andbest of alla silver tracery on a blazer was also taken from the metallic designs on money. A bank robber's need for a quick change accounted for some incongruous layering: a corduroy jacket over a nylon blouson, a formal shawl-collared jacket over a wrapped knit vest, another formal jacket over a boilersuit (that essential combo for the elegant crook will probably show up in the next Ocean's). The concept of disguise made its presence felt in a plush fur blouson and coat that were actually sheepskin. And the time frame of the original movie inspired a sleek silk suit in green-and-blue houndstooth that was easily the sexiest piece in a show that was otherwise light on carnality for something that had Delon and Gabin at its heart.
The odd idea leapt outa gunmetal peacoat, trousers with a generous new cutbut what loomed largest in the end was probably Damier Graphite, the latest variation on the pattern that Georges Vuitton introduced 120 years ago to foil imitators. It's unleashed in a range of guy-friendly styles in August, and you've never seen grown men lust after an It bag like they did this morning.