Jarrar’s collection was gorgeous despite the difficulties of dealing with an atelier of artisans, loyal to Elbaz, that imploded after his departure. Her work was all the most stunning, considering how few women helm the venerable old French houses — of which Lanvin, founded in 1889, happens to be the oldest.
But mostly, it was beautiful because Jarrar, who closed her eponymous couture house to join Lanvin, merged her own style of polished, minimalist tailoring with the romance and emotional resonance of Elbaz’s sensual draping to craft a collection that embraced the established vocabulary of the brand but communicated a new message of cocky romance. She did not upend everything that had come before — because there was still quite a lot to like about the clothes that Elbaz was sending down the runway.
Elbaz’s clothes were feminine but not frilly. They tapped into the confident part of a woman’s personality without denying her vulnerability nor her delight in a well-placed ruffle or a rope of glittering costume jewelry that makes her feel like she is the star of her own Hollywood film.
Jarrar offered plenty of light in the form of sparkling fringe that hung around the neck or dangle from a slender wrist. There were paillettes on simple slip dresses, and fuzzy black grandpa cardigans twinkled as if they had been dipped in a pot of silver glitter. The shoes — slides brimming with dazzling fringe, stilettos rimmed with crystals — were, quite simply, magical. Click your heels in them and imagine yourself a star surrounded by a thousand cheering fans: “We love you!” Go ahead, blow them a kiss. You’re living your wildest fantasy.
Jarrar’s striped pajama trousers and peak-lapel blazers were paired with slinky underpinnings and silk flower corsages. A nubby ivory coat dress was framed by feathery embellishments. She hacked off the sleeves of tuxedo jackets and used them as vests or tunics. They looked easy and relaxed but without losing their sharp lines and polish.
In the last decade or so, fashion has been in upheaval with flagship French houses — Saint Laurent, Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy — losing their creative directors. But it’s rare that women have been tapped to lead the way. Finally, Jarrar guides Lanvin. And Maria Grazia Chiuri will debut at Dior on Friday. Certainly there are talented women leading fashion houses here, but typically they have been founders of their own brand, such as Stella McCartney or they have taken second tier houses and elevated them by force of their own talent, such as the case with Phoebe Philo at Céline.
Jarrar was entrusted with the reins of a house that, while troubled, was still considered a fashion leader as well as a legacy brand. If there was anything about her work that distinguishes it by gender, it may well be the kind of cool ease it exudes. It has a streak of romanticism in it, but it is not the fantasy-laden sort inspired by exotic locations or mythical characters. Jarrar is rooted in the now. While there is sheerness and there are perilously high heels, there’s also a tacit understanding that these are not the clothes of every day — but special days. And surely, everyone could stand to have a few more of those.
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