In a season laden with wide-shouldered, short-skirted and glitter-crusted crass pastiches of luxury (naming no names), we can always count on Alber Elbaz at Lanvin to remind us of the meaning of true, unadulterated and unapologetic luxury. Through a poetic red rose bower, Elbaz purely and simply presented his vision - nay, the vision - of how women should dress next season. As so often, Lanvin managed to nail every feeling that has emerged around the various fashion capitals: ornately-worked surfaces, graphic silhouettes, shoulder emphasis, a dark palette and bejewelled adornment. Granted, many of these influences can be traced back to Elbaz's hand in the first instance, therefore it is only right that he should so flawlessly offer the definitive versions.
Elbaz's collection opened with the kind of severely chic wool-crepe dresses one's grandmother may have worn - if she was the Duchess of Windsor, that is. Skirts were to the knee and collars at clavicle in black, French navy and a single brilliant pop of scarlet: with ornament restricted to swathed and ruched detailing pinched about poitrine and peplum, they had a refined and discretely bourgeoisie charm of the 1940s that managed to surpass our current eighties love affair. Elbaz's trademark is ease, and it is a mark of his inestimable skill that these dresses retained the elegance and refinement of that era's haute couture finest without the stiff-backed, frosty froideur. As always, silhouettes were unstructured: thus Lanvin's shoulder emphasis came not from pads but reversed seaming, which also decorated strict but soft oversized coats and satin dresses. There was a touch of deconstruction to whipped froths of tulle wrapped around the body into delicious nude cocktail dresses, or spilling in flurries across necklines and from slit hems. Glitter was subtly applied, crystals and sequins glinting quietly from dark surfaces or lurex yarns catching the light to animate tufted devore velvet cocktail dresses. Accessories were old-school - kidskin opera gloves, heavy gold necklaces, boxy bags and fur stoles (albeit fused with an easy cashmere cable-knit at the front). The absolute definition of modern luxury? Elbaz's version of the fur coat - reversed to show the world plain wool and swathe the wearer in softest and most secret sable.
A French sartorial maxim is that one cannot afford to buy cheaply. Lanvin is certainly not cheap, but in uncertain times such as these, can we really afford not to buy into so consummate a vision?