#SuzyPFW Maison Margiela Heads For First Class, While Lanvin Takes a Well-Worn Path
Priority travel. What’s not to love? Swishing through the hefty lines into the lush airport lounge, sinking back on a velvet couch. A glass of champagne? Enjoy!
Except that the Maison Margiela collection did not send out quite those happy peaceful vibes. Could it be that designer John Galliano is more like the rest of us – ramming everything into bags as we stagger from check-in to flight?
Bringing wit and a few large winks to what is the bane of most people’s lives was not a bad starting point for the Spring/Summer 2018 collection. And it was a fine fit with the designer’s fascination with the unfinished. There were trench coats sliced off at the shoulders and a riding coat cut down to a scarlet saddle at the waist, while an impeccably tailored translucent plastic trench was a reminder to the audience that although it might seem like a nod to current fashion, the designer was there early on.
Galliano seems to have got his ducks in a row – or maybe that should read “his bags on the carousel”. For he is putting his artsy and hyper-inventive work into the twice-yearly artisanal couture collections, while giving a reality check to Maison Margiela.
What the designer achieved was a convincing collection of solid-gold fashion – as in an impeccably cut coat with leather belt and gilded flat shoes to finish it off.
The lasting impression was the easy-to-pack theme: a gilded dress ready to crunch up in pleats; a flowery, towelling beach robe doing double duty as a strapless dress. And if you were looking for a travel case light as a feather, well, those plumes created light-hearted decoration. For this Margiela outing, the designer took his ideas forward, converting feather decoration into prints. It all seemed a wearable – as well as packable – collection.
Galliano has come some way to fit into his role of regenerating another brand. With that move, everything has shifted from a major to minor key, with more tailored clothes than before – even if a check coat might have an intervention of satin at the hips.
The one element that stood out among the carry-ons and shopping bags, fluffy neck supports and rubberised swimming caps was the lipstick, always in a hot pink. Was it just the one? Maybe that is all that would fit snugly into transparent plastic bags at check-in.
Some of the clothes, where Galliano appropriated the inappropriate, still seemed like noble experiments. But by dividing his work with Maison Margiela into couture style (with correspondingly fantastical painting) and ready-to-wear reality, the designer is getting nearer to the fashion world’s dream: of off-the-peg clothes emerging as exceptional and extraordinary work. Even when worn in a constricted aeroplane cabin.
Under the current luxury brand hiring system, it seems that new designers are taken on, thrown to the lions (the buyers and press), obliged to produce a debut show on which their entire reputation is judged, and are then mostly followed by the cry, “Next!”
Lanvin is now on its second round of searches for a creative director. Olivier Lapidus, a veteran from a well-respected French fashion family, has taken over from Bouchra Jarrar, who survived two seasons. All this came after the removal of the long-serving Alber Elbaz.
The kindest thing to say about the Lanvin show for Spring/Summer 2018 is that it was perhaps meant as a palate cleanser. The high proportion of black (that Parisian fail-safe) and the would-be-sexy little black dresses offered a feeling of chic severity à la française. They suggested nothing about the spirit of a designer who was at least as popular as Coco Chanel in her day; a working mother and a woman of character.
Walking along a narrow, raised runway, the models stepped forward in sandals rising up to cage the leg. The dresses, trouser suits and slender gowns could have come from any wardrobe – but no-one had pressed the reset button.
When Lapidus tried something new, the choice was a Scarlet Lady sexy mini dress; or a lumpy, rounded jacket blown up into what was once known as an opera coat.
But who would know that this was a collection particular to one house, rather than generic? Lapidus had the answer. He printed the name “Lanvin” in various colours on cotton skirts and dresses. The effect was cute, even elegant.
But the designer has so much to do before he can impress his vision of Lanvin on the fashion world and potential clients. A house needs to have a particular spirit that flows through the collection and is imbedded in stores. It is called an identity. But how elusive that seems to be for fashion houses worldwide, looking for the essence of a house and trying to answer the succession question.