Alber Elbaz insists that, by the time he's subjected it to his design process, there is almost nothing recognizable left of the story with which he starts each new collection. Today's effort was a good example. Before the show, he mentioned he had in mind an angel in hell, but as he drew and drew, the angel returned to earth. Still, if you let your mind go, you could imagine that the snakes coiled in appliqué across a dress or in a print down a pant leg were echoes of Down There. The shoulders that gave the collection its epic silhouette could be the vestiges of wings. And when Karlie Kloss froze at the end of the catwalk in a halo of orange light? Case rests.
But all that aside, what Elbaz offered felt like his own pragmatic take on sportswear. Separates, for instance. Lanvin has always been about The Dress, but this time, Elbaz tackled tops and bottoms. One of the challenges he set himself was quite typical: How can a tracksuit work for evening? That's why he mixed the show up, daywear and dressier stuff wantonly intermingled. It created an urgent, unfinished, spontaneous mood, which was amplified by dresses that had ribbons or pleats pinned to them. It was like that with all the slits, too. They had a raw, sexy energy.
In fact, this might have been the collection where Elbaz truly embraced sex. It was a major contributor to the strength of the show, along with those shoulders, which he was quick to point out had nothing to do with eighties padded power dressing. "Power you can buy in a bank," he said. "I prefer strength." Against which he paraded sheer tulle dresses that conveyed a nothing-to-hide vulnerability. Oppositions are fundamental to Elbaz, the most elementary being the reality of clothes versus the dream of fashion. He's always managed to bridge the gap by making things that women desire. Here, the desire was more palpable than ever. And helping that happen was Elbaz's conviction that "modernity is beauty." Flip that formula, then think for a moment about how simple, timeless, and radical it is.