The idealism of multiculturalism is rising as a background subject in Paris. How about the multicultural idealism of Alber Elbaz? A Jewish boy, born in North Africa, who studied in Israel, learned his trade in New York, and then rose to become one of today’s central forces of fashion in Paris: No one personifies the sparkling creative insights that arise from a collaged background more than he does. Elbaz doesn’t speak about such complexities he just shows them, and lets the audience tune in. Or not, if you just prefer to enjoy the surfaces.
Gorgeously beautiful and severely militaristic by turns, the staging began with a model, marching out at a clip, her trousers with an officer’s red stripe on the outside leg tucked into tasseled knee-boots, topped off with a navy cropped jacket. That introduced a mood that skimmed swiftly across allusions to the seventies, possibly the Yves Saint Laurent hippie-deluxe era, delved into crazily elegant fringing and tasseling, encompassed strict dresses, and flowing draped jersey tethered with asymmetric leather harnesses.
It didn’t fit any narrative, except the one you might guess at within the framework of Elbaz’s lifetime of experience. Right in the middle there was a striped, hooded djellaba coat Elbaz’s most direct hint that he might be thinking about his North African birthplace (he was born in Casablanca). It went by in an intensely beautiful passage of brown- and gold-flecked dresses styled with startlingly chic russet-dyed fur. Then it was on to a group of plain yet ingeniously flowing dresses, just as successful and designs which, on a second’s reflection, triggered a visual connection with the work of Geoffrey Beene in New York, circa the late eighties.
Alber Elbaz didn’t say a word to explain any of this as he was bombarded with congratulations by the roiling crowd that engulfed him after the show. He just laughed and hugged his way through all the guests, colleagues, and friends who enjoyed what they’d seen. He’d mixed so many impulses: fear of the times, counteracted by flourishes of spontaneous fun; respect for the reality of modern working women; and sensual enjoyment of rich, hippie eclecticism. In dispensing with explanatory press releases or belabored explanations of where his ideas come from, Elbaz is right: What you see and feel about this sequence of clothes hardly needs earnest subtitles. But just as surely, there’s a seam of personal subtexts here, something drawn from Elbaz’s immersion in Yves Saint Laurent (he designed there in the late nineties and early aughts) and from his formative design years at Geoffrey Beene in New York in the eighties. In the end, all that adds up to a complex message of appreciation that crosses national, religious, and political boundaries: the precious value of tolerance.
Enjoy the LANVIN Fall/Winter '15/16 runway show at the end of this post! LoL, Andrea
Backstage-impression with LANVIN's Creative Director Alber Elbaz
Selections by ANDREA JANKE Finest Accessories
Photo Credit/Source: The House of LANVIN
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