Down the Lanvin runway came a collection that was, for the most part, also trying to forget about Alber Elbaz.
In the face of an absent designer, how does a storied fashion house manage to remain relevant? This has been the question du jour amongst the collective industry this season, with many wondering how designer-less maisons such as Lanvin and Dior will remain significant (and commercially successful) in the midst of a tidal wave of change in fashion that sees more and more consumer-facing collections by the day, and the increasing importance of a face — think Chanel’s Karl Lagerfeld or Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing — to operate not only as the key designer but as the primary marketing tool for a brand.
From the onset, it was clear that Elbaz’s presence had been all but erased from the show venue.
Surprisingly, and perhaps remarkably, last night’s Lanvin show served to answer just that for an anxious and emotional audience. An Alber Elbaz-less Lanvin had many an editor, buyer, and fashion enthusiast (deservedly) worried and still highly nostalgic for a time when the much-loved designer helmed the house. From the onset, it was clear that Elbaz’s presence had been all but erased from the show venue. In stark contrast to Elbaz’s dark sets, last night’s location was brightly lit, with white drapery flowing from the walls of the Lycée Carnot, where the show was held, as if to signal a rebirth for the brand.
Down the runway came a collection that was, for the most part, also trying to forget about Elbaz. Though certain outfits were impeccably styled — that choker-and-dangling-earring combo is certain to be picked up by street style stars by tomorrow morning — the rigid cuts and stiff fabrics were not reminiscent of the light hand and signature draping of the tremendously talented Elbaz. A Latin-influenced bolero jacket and flamenco skirt, paired with the trompe l’oeil effect of a lace underpinning that was either a bib or part of a necklace — hard to tell — was impossibly chic, yet it floated along slightly disjointed looks, including a few (admittedly beautiful) fur outfits that seemed completely out of place with the rest of the collection.
Had this been a new designer on the Fashion Week calendar, we would be remiss not to give credit to the many promising looks that showed. However, held up to the unattainably high standards of Elbaz, and the history of the brand over the 14 years that he helmed it, it was difficult to see the light at the end of the tunnel — despite the lighting rig that practically blinded us throughout the show. Perhaps a new set of eyes, and a less emotional heart, are needed to see more clearly what was, truthfully, a great collection.