It scarcely seems possible that there could be such a material as "transparent crocodile," but if anyone is capable of producing such stuff, it would have to be Hermès. And the designer best placed to use it would naturally be Jean Paul Gaultier. And he would instinctively cut it into a sharply tailored jacket. That particular item was one of the more mesmerizing pieces in Gaultier's swan song for Hermès today (Christophe Lemaire takes these luxurious reins next season), but there were plenty more in a show that made for a fabulous last hurrah.
The collection also made full use of the house's horsey heritage, starting with the showbizzy opener of a dressage corps going through its paces under a mass of chandeliers. Then Karlie Kloss, every designer's favorite equestrienne, stalked out in second-skin black leather, brandishing a riding crop. Her lean, sexy, and ever-so-fetishistic look set the tone for the whole show. Where there was volume, as in a white organza coat trailing away in scarf points, or a flowing gown in ombré chiffon, or the capes of mousseline that swathed the finale, it merely emphasized the intense body-consciousness of the rest. Which meant the key piece was a leather basque, highlighting the waist, attenuating the hard, precise silhouette.
Gaultier is a master tailor, and here he maximized his talent to create an austere but sensuous glamour. His singular twist was to build interest into the back of a garment, baring skin with jackets and tops that crisscrossed like wings. If they might be classified as a fashion bridge too far—along with the body harnesses, the jodhpur shorts, and those basques—there was temptation aplenty elsewhere. See the ultra-high-waisted pants, chic leather-fronted cardigans, gorgeous suede jackets, and leather skirts, not to mention some splendidly sleek accessories that were worthy additions to the classic Hermès carryalls.
Spring 2011 Ready-to-Wear
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