For lightness, technical brilliance, and sheer heart-racing excitement, Alber Elbaz's Spring collection was one of the most uplifting shows of the entire season. On a breeze, with nothing much more than a twist of polyester to hand, he captured fluidity, color, practicality, and a soaring kind of simplicity that caused a visceral response in every woman watching. To begin with, he brought the principles of goddess dressing to daywear, putting knee-length draped dresses under light, matching flyaway trenches in city-sober (yet utterly stunning) navy or khakiMadame Grès gone techno. Elbaz's stand-alone dresses were masterpieces of cuttingseamless spirals, flowing trapezes, cool shifts magicked out of single lengths of material with maybe just a belt or a gathered drawstring for detail. "I have no words for it," he said, humbly. "I only wanted to start from instinct."
Few words, indeed, are equal to describing the drama of the pleated dresses that ballooned into airborne trains in movementone each in cobalt, green, yellow, and redor the embellishment. Pale ostrich plumes worked their way up the front of a white chiffon sheath, puffing upward to one shoulder and tethered to the body with a weighty pearl-and-enamel pendant. Patches of crystal and feather embroidery, almost African, were worked into intensely patterned shimmy dresses fit for a modern Josephine Baker. And the color kept on exploding on the retina: magenta, teal, red, coral, purple. By the finale parade, Elbaz had covered tux dressing, togas, shirts, pencil skirts, and even some of the season's best fluid pants. When he came out to take his bow, there was a roar of applause from the audiencerecognition that this triumph was Elbaz's best Lanvin collection to date, and a celebration that, at long last, someone had come up with the insight to make a collection that is about enhancing the quality of women's lives today.