Alber Elbaz knows how to stage a runway show better than almost any designer. When the curtain went up on his fall collection for Lanvin, the backdrop was an empty warehouse as far back as the eye could see. Then, in an instant, a cool gust came rushing out, and you could feel it -- the power of a woman.
Strong, purposeful and serious, but not afraid to crack a smile, that is the Lanvin woman for fall. She appeared as if in a dream, striding confidently through a red rose archway onto the slick, wet paved runway.
Elbaz concentrated on bias cut tailoring, which meant the clothes skimmed the body like a gentle caress. There was a 1940s feel to wool suits in black, red or gray, with jackets draped and belted over slim skirts. Some were worn with fur cowls, which Elbaz brilliantly mounted on knit so they could be pulled down over the shoulders.
His sculptural dresses, effortlessly trained into a single flounce on one shoulder or molded into a bow at the waist, have never looked more timeless. Nor have his coats, raw-edged and trimmed in black and gold crystals.
There was something more low key about this collection than his others. Those gobstopper-sized crystal pendants were replaced by tubular, geometric neck pieces and cuff bracelets, which are supplanting statement necklaces as the next big accessory trend. Black feather head bands, worn with sleek ponytails, and bold red lipstick completed the look.
While this collection was sober and serious, befitting the times, it was joyful too. Because otherwise, what would be the point of fashion? So of course, when the models came out all smiles to take their bows, it was contagious. Elbaz had charmed us all once again.
A look from the Lanvin runway collection at Paris Fashion Week on March 6, 2009. Credit: European Pressphoto Agency / MAXPPP.