Was it just coincidence that Christophe Decarnin showed his Balmain collection in the same room—the swimming pool at the Ritz—that Gianni Versace used for his couture spectaculars? There was certainly an almost Gianni-like gaggle of fans jostling outside, and a heated buzz of anticipation in the house for the man whose frank embrace of rock-chick bling, rounded "tennis ball"-shouldered jackets, and elaborate jeans have shot him to the position of No. 1 most copied designer in the space of two seasons. The choice of venue only added to the sense of expectation heaped on Decarnin's performance as fashion's latest appointed savior of good-time, high-sparkle, downright sexy dressing.
Decarnin certainly proved he's the leader of the disco fever he has single-handedly triggered this season. He had the shortest, tightest body dresses witnessed anywhere: smothered in Swarovski crystal, flouncing up at the shoulder, tightly bound in satin drape or quilted, chain-wrapped black leather. The cult peaked-shoulder Balmain jacket was reiterated in force: same signature shape, now manifested as a leather biker as well as a tuxedo jacket, and often paired with new drapey harem pants or skinny jean-cut black trousers. Every look was thrust into deep-cuffed suede boots with a stack of silver buckles running up the side.
All that probably threw on enough fuel to keep Balmain on fire for the next season, not just with trophy-hunting girls who can afford the red-hot prices but also with the knock-off merchants who will be laughing all the way to bank while making an easy killing with stick-on glitter and the minimum yardage of Lycra and fake leather. In that way, Decarnin deserves acknowledgement for keeping the wheels of fast fashion turning. Exactly how far it's going to go is open to question, though. By halfway through the show, Decarnin's looks—the jacket, pant, and drapey T-shirt; the minuscule dress; and the half-train gown—were already into heavy rotation. If he's really going to win a place as the Versace of tomorrow, he'll have to come up with more than that next season.