Before his latest Lanvin presentation, Alber Elbaz seemed a little nervous, like maybe he felt he'd gone too far. Guess that's what happens when you've already rated your collection Triple X—Xtravagant, Xtreme, and Xperiment. Any of those Xs has marked the spot for Elbaz in the past, but when they were combined in one collection they reached a critical mass of twisted splendor.
The set felt like a soundstage, with kliegs and spots and standing lamps, and that automatically cued the chiaroscuro mood. The show was a cinematic shadow play. The faces of the models were often cast into darkness by their headgear, while the textures of their clothing also played on dark and light, especially in the fringed, ruffled, raw-edged pieces that opened the show. There was something dark, fierce, and frustrated, literally bursting at the seams, about these particular outfits. They were extravagant and extreme, and they set a very particular pace, picked up by dresses in pleated black leather or bias-cut knit or midnight duchesse satin, literally framed in glass baguettes and bugle beads.
Hardware is always significant in a Lanvin show. Here, there were huge domes. They snapped a swath of fur to a layered gray suit. It's a strange effect when you drape animal skins over flannel or tweed, when the primal suffocates the urbane. And it seemed to fit right in with Elbaz's efforts to discombobulate the Lanvin he has created. By way of contrast with Spring's shiny candy wrappers, he paraded Edwardians in floor-sweeping dresses, faces shaded by wide-brimmed marabou-trimmed hats. This ghostly effect was then compounded by Edie Campbell in a dress that matched a rococo spirit with a hot shot of nu flamenco. Xperiment!
As the show ran its course, it became apparent that Elbaz's subject was time itself. In fashion, that can mean a slavish subjection to seasons or a blind faith in the classic. His ongoing obsession is to liberate women from everything remotely hidebound by orthodoxy. Understandably, that task frustrates Elbaz at times. Today, his elongated Edwardians dissolved into a torrent of flapper fringes, a furious flurry of activity that was punctuated by one perfect slipdress in charmeuse silk. Mercifully, there is quiet in the storm.