There was the merest snatch of "You Don't Own Me," Lesley Gore's classic anthem of fuck-offery, on the Lanvin soundtrack today, but that was enough to cue the sense of triumph that must be powering Alber Elbaz in this, the tenth anniversary of his tenure at the house. There were the years when things didn't go quite right, when the YSL dream job turned nightmare, when he felt like the eternal outsider in fashion's sleek inner circle. But here he is a decade later, A-number one, top of the list, king of the hill, and somewhere deep inside, there must be a voice cooing to Elbaz that revenge is sweet.
The clothes he showed today certainly were. But not sweet like the pyramids of cakes that greeted guests at the after-show party. No, these outfits were suh-weet in their body-enhancing shape; their intense, delicious color; their feeling of wayward fun. Elbaz has always exalted womanliness (tonight he even confessed that he'd be happy to be considered a designer who reshaped women), and here there was a generous emphasis on the curve. Roundness too, especially in skirts that flared from hips.
But if you were to attempt to plumb Elbaz's appeal—and the sheer joy that seemed to animate tonight's audience shows how deep it runs—it might be the fun element that hits first. His ten years at Lanvin have given women a license to dress up, get down. The party section of the collection announced itself with gold brocade, then quickly leaped to glittering appliqués, beaded sheaths, exuberant prints, and intarsia-ed furs.
The models literally had diamonds—OK, sparkles—on the soles of their shoes. And when Aymeline Valade worked the runway in a black dress with a huge white ruffle coiling around her body, it brought back memories of those purely pleasurable fashion moments when
catwalk divas like Pat Cleveland shamelessly strutted in the name of style.
Elbaz remembers those good times. Hence, the carnival atmosphere of his show closer and everything that came afterward. Alber himself crooned "Que Sera, Sera," with a backing group of signal figures from his past. ("Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Joey Arias on vocals, Miss Kim Hastreiter on xylophone.") But the fizzy fabulosity of the evening kicked another thought pattern into gear. All parties must come to an end, and maybe that melancholy prospect is a less acknowledged element in the appeal of Elbaz's clothes. Underneath all the dazzle, he gives you depth and a hint of darkness.