One of the questions most asked in fashion circles is, ‘If you had to wear a label for life, what would it be?’
After all these years, Lanvin remains a favourite of mine. Not just Lanvin; but specifically, Alber Elbaz’s Lanvin. Elbaz is one of a small handful of designers I hold in high regard. Not just because I like his clothes (that would be way too easy), but because I appreciate his languid approach to fashion, the way he sticks to his vision, and his penchant for subtlety when it comes to going against the grain.
An exchange that has gotten stuck in my head since, is an interview between Stephanie Seymour Brant of Interview Magazine and Elbaz conducted some time back:
ELBAZ: … You see, I’m not into the sexy thing, where you need to make everything glamorous and sexy. I always find it a bit opportunist, coming in with cleavage and saying, “Hello, darling.”
SEYMOUR BRANT: No, I don’t like that at all. But your clothes can be sexy.
ELBAZ: But not because they are revealing. I think it’s because they give strength. Strong and powerful people are sexy.
Elbaz’s Fall/Winter 2013 collection for Lanvin is an echo of that. In fact, it has been a common thread that has runs consistently throughout every single one of his outings since he landed the top job in 2009. From starkly covered-up silhouettes to a certain austere, multi-faceted opulence, it has been his technical acumen that has enabled him to convey the most profound of ideas by boiling them down to a distilled singularity.
Elbaz said that this collection is about thinking. About “the world changing, about women changing, about who’s next? Which pope?”
To me, it seems as if the things that we think about don’t necessarily have to be related or even have some sort of linearity. The order in which we think about things, and the intensity in which we experience them no longer have to follow what have been long-accepted to be logical patterns. Every day, we are being bombarded with a mishmash of ideas quite unthought-of before, funky new (and often unattainable) ideals and unconventional, radical ideologies. How do we even make sense of the sense of bombardment amidst our own inner turmoil as we struggle to understand, stay true to, and live out our internal values? With simplicity and duplicity it seems. Not deceitfulness, but a duplicity to be understood as having a doubleness.
Elbaz’s clothes need no punctuation. But the fact that he chose to punctuate this collection with the words ‘love’, ‘happy’, ‘help’ and ‘cool’ made me see that perhaps there’s a deeper significance to the lightness of the words. There exists both shallowness and depth to the four words attached to thick, dangling chains accompanying the looks that came down the runway. How much shallowness? How much depth? It really does depend on the intensity in which they are experienced, and importance and emphasis they have in our lives.
I like that Elbaz gives us a little glimpse into his thought process as he was conceptualizing the collection, but leaves us with much room for thought and interpretation. There was no linearity to the order of what was presented on the runway. A strict, severe black coat punctuated by the word ‘help’ preceded a black velvet tulip dress with white rosettes on the shoulder preceded a deep fuchsia dress accessorized with a big red heart that announced ‘YOU’. Daytime looks were interspersed with evening, night and day were one and the same, and the mood was simply ‘Here we are now, entertain us!’
The world is changing, and we are changing. The fashion of modernity is immediacy. Here the world watches, and Elbaz entertains, but his strength and genius lies in the ability to do that, and still work with a singularity of vision and conviction that remains true to himself. Now that’s sexy.
Images: Gorunway, Mark Leibowitz