What a merry-go-round contemporary fashion has become, designers shifting from house to house, seasons speeding up so fast they blur into abstraction, shows and fashion weeks seeming to multiply every year. Was the gargantuan carousel that Marc Jacobs erected as the centrepiece of his Spring/Summer 2012 Louis Vuitton show a reflection of the times? Or maybe even a sly hint towards the speculation that he may be changing ponies on the fairground ride of fashion?
Jacobs loves to make a statement with his show sets, so its entirely possible. Its also possible that the statement he was making was about the might of Louis Vuitton - both the finances to build that convoluted set, and the creative might of Jacobs and his team. It also spoke of Jacobs' confidence that nothing could distract attention from the clothes on show.
For Spring/Summer 2012, Marc Jacobs was feeling feminine. His colours were pale, macaroon shades of candy floss pink, periwinkle, primrose and pistachio, the whole lot dusted with ostrich feather fronds like icing sugar. The silhouette was vaguely sixties, skirts belling prettily about the legs in trapeze lines, bubbling about empire waists in guipure, ribbon-threaded organza and a My Little Pony-rainbow of broiderie anglaises. When that confectionary-hued prettiness even extended to a crocodile Perfecto jacket rendered in eyeshadow blue and ivory, you knew there was no escape. Indeed, Jacobs upped the sweet so much it felt a little sick. Which was the entire point. The soundtrack - opening with Goblin's soaring, sinister Suspiria soundtrack and continuing along that macabre route - undermined all that cute stuff. And some of that cute stuff was pretty sick when you looked at the materials: nylon and cashmere-mix panties, a hangover of rubber from last season, and whitewashed crocodile. If we're thinking beauty queens, it was less Doris Day and more Jon-Benet Ramsey. When you thought about it deep enough, something was intriguingly off about all this.
On the surface, however, all was fine and dandy. And surface is what fashion sells. There was plenty here to keep fans happy, the pastel-pastoral dresses adorned with similarly saccharine accessories, patent mules in humbug stripes of white, lemon and baby-blue, silver tiaras holding every chignon back, and of course the bags. Lots and lots of bags, in every pasteline permutation, worked in every skin and style, each one precious and beautiful.
It would be easy to see those ever-present hold-alls as a Vuitton marketing ploy - hammering home the house's biggest money-spinner through Pavlovian repeat-appearances. Then again, in effect a marketing ploy is what every fashion show is - the theatre of retail. But this show felt like a heartfelt statement from Jacobs. Perhaps it was also a statement of intent, should the rumours be true and Jacobs be given the plum role at Christian Dior. In his show notes, Jacobs outlined the roots of the collection as a love of craftsmanship, painstaking construction and even 'high sewing'. Translate that to French and what do you get? Regardless of the language, however, you get the foundation for an excellent collection. This one happened to be for Louis Vuitton.