One in a series on the clothes that had a big moment at Paris Fashion Week.
PARIS — Let a pale purple, ill-fitting, shiny lace dress from the Lanvin fall 2016 women’s show serve as a warning to any fashion house planning to rid itself of a designer without a replacement standing by. Let it serve as a reminder to consumers that fashion is difficult and that defining a vision and crafting enticing garments to reflect that vision is a high hurdle. Let Lanvin’s little lace frock be a lesson that good clothes begin with the raw ingredients, and if the fabric looks flammable and the color is sad and drab, no amount of ruffles or styling can make it better.
Lanvin presented its first collection since the October departure of its longtime creative director Alber Elbaz. And it was sad.
The clothes did not fit the models in a way that was flattering. Everything hung loosely, but nothing had the nonchalant audacity of being oversized. The color palette was faded and dour: lilac, coral, grayish blue. Or it was bottom-of-the-Crayola-box shades of burnt sienna. The styling was illogical and awkward, with heavy menswear jackets layered over dowdy dresses. Overalls mingled with lace tops.
The clothes were dowdy, mostly because of their body-ignoring cut and because they seemed to have been pulled from the 1980s. And while the fashion industry is guilty of recycling far too many ideas from decades past, doing so requires a keen eye for understanding when a proportion needs to be tweaked or when a silhouette must be paired with a significant amount of irony before it looks just right.
Rare is the designer who actually invents something, such as a new method of construction or fabric treatment. The best designers simply reimagine old ideas; they repurpose existing garments for new uses; they combine colors and embellishments in a way that jolts the imagination. And they have a vision, which means that their clothes tell a cohesive story. There is an endgame, a climax.
The collection from Lanvin — created in-house by a team that took no bow — was a disjointed assemblage of frocks. They were tentative, wan, uninspired and forlorn.
During Elbaz’s tenure, Lanvin had a signature. It offered women a different kind of power dressing: sensual, mysterious, comfortable and strong. No matter the season or the flight of fancy, that was always the underlying message.
For fall, Lanvin had not simply lost its most eloquent voice. The brand wasn’t merely reduced to a whisper. It had gone completely silent — except for the whimper of a few yards of stiff lace.
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