Christophe Decarnin is the man on whose glittery, highly padded shoulders rests the success of the whole of the mass market as it currently stands. It's a known phenomenon that the cost of a single one of his jackets ($9,000 or thereabouts) could pay for an entire wardrobe of Balmain knockoffs for ten teenage girls, but no matter: He is hot. His models are scorching. And if what he does is the opposite of intellectual, it's also so clever it's simultaneously fueling spending frenzies up-market and down-. In terms of the general sequins-for-day trend, Balmain's influence is visible almost every which way you care to look in a chain store.
For Spring, Decarnin brought out another whammy of a no-brainer blockbuster: disco cavewoman goes to the front. His army of sizzling, sleek-limbed supergirls strode out with huge-shouldered, metal-epauletted military tailcoats. Their T-shirts were tattered; bullet belts were slung around artfully "destroyed," stained, and holed jeans or, yet more sensationally, minute, hypersexed, raggedy suede and leather loincloths (the term "skirt" hardly covers it). Patching together seventies M*A*S*H and early Versace chain-mailed goddess-dressing, the show moved from camouflage to sequined camouflage to patchworked gold-sequined camouflage without a flicker of irony or the slightest fear of treading on politically sensitive ground. Some schools of thought will condemn that outright. Others will argue, purely on taste grounds, that wearing a belt with bullets arranged in a flower pattern or a military shirt with shrapnel holes filled in with gold patches is a fashion misdemeanor worthy of ten days in the slammer. And yet, none of that is likely to have the slightest effect on the runaway success of this Balmain collection.