Paris Menswear: A Tough Crowd At Lanvin
A few nights ago, Thom Browne was insisting that it’s possible to do new things in menswear, while I was arguing the nothing-new-under-the-sun case. It’s emotion that stirs us, not novelty—but the emotion can leave us feeling that we have just experienced something unfamiliar. That’s fashion alchemy, and Alber Elbaz’s career at Lanvin is testament to its power. (So, for that matter, is Thom Browne’s.) And his menswear right hand Lucas Ossendrijver has learned well.
You could point to things that were “new” for the men’s collection Lanvin showed today, like the complex internal construction on coats that looked as simple as bath-robes on the outside or the tufty fitted knits, or the jackets cut round instead of straight, but the impact of the clothes was really concentrated in the mood they evoked.
Protection has been a running theme during these Fall shows. Here, there were gaiters round calves and corset belts covering the midriff. The coats that wrapped the collection had a military heft. So did the footwear, and the backpacks with everything. From a distance, the last outfit, with its matching pack, even looked like camo. It was actually a print based on clouds. That trick of the eye summed up the mood. Elbaz claimed there was more toughness, less poetry and romance than usual, but the toughness was an illusion. The camouflage pattern was really a cloud that could disappear in a puff; the hefty coats floated in the catwalk backdraft; the sharp pinstriped suit looked like it was coming apart at the seams.
Someone made the point that there has been a lot of macho imagery on catwalks this season—the military influence being a case in point—but at Lanvin, I think the “toughness” only highlighted the vulnerability of the boys. (I’ll go on calling them that however much Alber and Lucas insist they’re growing into men.) This simply isn’t a man’s world anymore. And if that isn’t an emotional sticking point for the average male, I don’t know what is.
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