PFW: LANVIN F/W 2014

Ah, Lanvin, thy name is … Burberry? No, wait … Chanel? No, silly, there’s only one name at Lanvin: Alber Elbaz and as long as he remains in charge of this historic label one can be quite certain that his influences will come from all over but that the treatment he gives them is totally his own. Yes, there is a significant sense of history in this collection as Elbaz makes his way from Edwardian to 1920’s flapper to 1950’s suits to the most contemporary of silk dresses. But instead of a trip down memory lane, this is more like a history lesson while wearing Alber Elbaz goggles. He allows us to see things familiar in a very different way.

Well before the show, Elbaz warned that this collection would be, “a dalliance with Extravagance, Extremism and Experimentation.” That was enough to set tongues wagging with wonderment as to exactly what Elbaz might send down the runway. Any one of those would be enough to fill a normal collection, and over the years he’s been at Lanvin we’ve seen each of those in various form. Putting all three of those elements together in one show, though, felt as though it might be … explosive.

I was momentarily taken back when the first piece coming down the runway was not silk or leather, which have been favorites of Elbaz, but rather tweed. What? Did he vacation in the lobby of Burberry? What Alber does with the fabric, though, is very un-British of him, leaving the edges raw and frayed, layers and folds over pleated layers and folds, and fringed and stuff. He’s obviously very taken with the fabric this season, bringing it back multiple times, especially as fringe on a beautiful silk dress. Was this anywhere close to what anyone was expecting? I’m pretty sure the answer is no.

Just a few looks later came an incredibly beautiful dress made from a single sheet of leather, so precisely folded and trimmed and cut that one could encounter this dress on the sidewalk fifteen years from now and still know at first glance that it was a Lanvin piece. Elbaz has these signature stylings that permeate his fashion as though he were personally autographing each design, and in many ways he is.

Experimentation came with Elbaz’ juxtaposition of fabrics, layering fur over tweed, or tweed over silk, or feathers over … anything. I’m trying to think when I’ve seen a Lanvin collection that utilized so many different fabrics and at times it seems as though Alber was trying to cram them all into one look. He was especially abundant in fur with this set, but it was with the feathers and fringe that he really seemed to be reaching for the edges.

Getting past the theatrics, and yes, this was a very dramatic show with wide-brimmed hats that hid model’s faces, what one finds here are some incredibly gorgeous pieces of day wear, dresses that are as fun as they are practical, suits destined to become contemporary classics, and gowns that will almost certainly factor in one of the stories you’ll tell your grandchildren. Lush, and probably incredibly expensive, this collection is all Lanvin, and all Elbaz. We wouldn’t want it any other way.

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