Vionnet Spring 2017 RTW

Following a few seasons of making optimistic excuses for Vionnet, it was a pleasure to see a collection in which many of the looks proved positive affirmations of the passion behind this unfashionable fashion house. Goga Ashkenazi put the staff of her atelier on the runway for the finale and highlighted the depth of their work—and the shallowness of others—by stitching slogans into the back of certain looks. So on a fishtailed cloak with a quintuple-tiered hem worn above raw-edged denim bermudas was written This piece took 194 hours to make. In a world where Zara makes fabulous jackets and only real experts can tell the difference between bespoke and off-the-rack, maybe you just have to spell it out.

The schtick of this collection was loose—“urban odyssey”—but the pieces it inspired were often sharply defined. Fantastically light chiffon blurs, paneled pleat dresses gathered with rope, separates in beach photo prints, and assertive denim interjections were the order of the day here. Neutral chiffon dresses and suits with nets of burnt-in rubber circlets were particularly interesting, and a dress of angularly set fringe-meets-coralesque tufting was just pretty. While not without flaw, this was a vastly improved Vionnet.

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Lanvin Spring 2017 RTW

Bouchra Jarrar closed her own label to accept the creative directorship at Lanvin last year, and has done her research on the woman who founded the house, unearthing the fact that Jeanne Lanvin predated Coco Chanel and all the other female couturiers of the ’20s and ’30s. “She made menswear and sportswear before she did women’s,” Jarrar said in a preview. That’s the gem of a fact she’s clearly been turning over in her mind, because Jarrar is innately a tailor for women. Among appreciative followers, she’s known for her meticulous hand—a way of cutting and fitting pantsuits, biker jackets, shirts, and trenches that is incredibly Parisian, rigorous but sensual at the same time.

She has brought those signatures to Lanvin, and her new start was ambitiously staged in the gilded, chandeliered hall of the Hôtel de Ville because, as Jarrar put it, “It’s at the heart of Paris!” Her opener was a fluid silhouette of an oyster charmeuse pantsuit with a long djellaba-like striped chiffon shirt floating beneath it—perhaps the subtlest of nods to her own heritage as a girl with Moroccan heritage who grew up in the South of France. All eyes were on how far she would integrate or extend the work of Lanvin’s former creative director Alber Elbaz. He, after all, was the one who established Lanvin as a label with a dual reputation for draped dresses and madly intense embellishment.

Jarrar can drape, too. She cut her teeth working for Nicolas Ghesquière at Balenciaga and then at Christian Lacroix. She’s a more reserved character than her predecessor, but she can drape a great silk velvet halter-neck top and whip a black organza minidress out of a single piece of fabric if she feels like it. More interestingly, the resources at Lanvin have brought out a penchant for jewelry in her—gold knots of chain mail and crystal as choker necklaces, diamanté strands dripping over hands, and long woven ribbons of gold thread that filled in the plunging necklines and sparkled beneath evening jackets.

It’s the kind of jewelry women who don’t like formal, traditional jewelry ought to gravitate toward. As it turned out, Jeanne Lanvin was already on that path in 1925, when she designed a silver bugle-beaded tie-shaped fabric necklace for women. Jarrar has brought the piece back—and it’s all the Lanvin woman will need to feel “dressed” for evening, in the comfort of her tuxedo suit. Whether there’s a woman who will accept Jarrar’s totally sheer, gauzy lace-trimmed black dresses as event- or eveningwear is a whole other matter. She probably needs to work more on figuring out what a new Lanvin dress means to a modern woman, but she has plenty of time for that. I’m excited to see what comes next.

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Etro Spring 2017 RTW

Etro will never be painfully cool. And that’s a testament to its inherent pleasures. For the spirit of this house is too generous, unpretentious, and securely anchored to succumb to fashion’s lame urge to exclude. Anyone can join the Etro tribe. And this season, Veronica Etro returned again to that anchor, the house paisley that should seriously tempt new members.

The collection, rich in jewel tones and packed with busy patterns and many a paisley, mined familiar territory: Etro loves a luxed-up bohemian, preferably if she’s on the move, trekking across the Indian deserts, or learning how to weave a Navajo blanket.

This season was all about travel, tribes and traditions, executed with a light touch by Veronica Etro, creative director of the brand’s woman’s line. “She’s en route to adventure,” said Etro, adding that the collection started with a caftan, the “symbol” of the Etro way of dressing. “I imagined this woman like an eclectic traveler, bearing in mind tradition, heritage and culture. She has her own tribe, she cross-pollinates so you can’t really tell from where she comes from.” The result were opulent looks with dashes of the utilitarian. Hooded capes came leather-edged with contrasting stitching or jewel-like clasps, while a host of lightweight blanket coats and shawls were adorned with stripes or Native American-inspired patterns. They were draped over long patterned caftans, some with deep v-shaped necklines, tassels or a bit of sparkle at the front. Silk trousers and dresses flashed with contrasting stripes or paisley swirls, while one bathrobe coat had a circle-of-life pattern on the back.

This kaleidoscopic swirl of a collection, which unfurled to Led Zeppelin tracks, also had its more down-to-earth elements, including a fluoro yellow jacket with a nipped-in waist done in a high-tech fabric, padded pants, sports-style bras and running shorts layered with the luxury pieces. The Etro tribe knows how to put it together.

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Marchesa Spring 2017 RTW

Marchesa designers Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig like to filter their vision of femininity through a rose-tinted lens, and today they opened their show on a classically pretty pink note. The overarching inspiration for the collection started with sunrise, and the colors that appear in the sky from dusk to dawn; a paint box of lilac, light blue, and blush pink that was touched at times with an iridescent finish. Aside from the glamorous one-shouldered Grecian dress in shiny gold lamé, the mood was more golden-hour than mid-day sun, a much quieter palette than the neon streaks we’ve seen coursing through the New York collections thus far.

Then again, Chapman and Craig aren’t the kind of designers to follow trends. Their brand of unapologetically frothy, more-is-more eveningwear is planted in the realm of Disney princess fantasy, a world inhabited by their Hollywood fans and friends. With the Emmy Awards tomorrow in Los Angeles, their designs are likely to take the spotlight again. Fashioned with layers of tulle, fringing, and dripping embellishments, the dresses on the runway were laden with attention-grabbing details. If those looks might appear OTT in real life, the 3-D floral finishings and mille-feuille confectionary would likely work well framed by the 360 camera technology being used on the red carpet these days. Whether the most dramatic full-skirted looks and trains would fit into anything other than a stretch limo, though, is another story entirely.

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