Memory was the idea behind Martin Sitbon's Autumn/Winter 2011 Rue Du Mail show - in fact, it's an idea that drives much of fashion, whether the nostalgic reminiscences of a designer's mother's wardrobe - Dior's New Look is, of course, the prime example - or a designer's nostalgia for a misbegotten youth. Martine Sitbon's take was the latter - she's a Bowie-bred child of the seventies, and has been reviving the decade since her career kicked off in the mid-eighties (when it was a very alien concept indeed).
Today however, the Rue Du Mail collection wasn't so much about a carbon-copy facsimile as the idea of references meshing and melding together, hazily half-remembered rather than perfectly recalled. The opening numbers were a riot of seventies texture, all neon fair-isle and bubbly quilting reminiscent of car seat covers. But the sinuous, below-the-knee lengths spoke of the thirties, as did details like tromp l'oeil revers on Chanel-style jackets, and even sliced-out lurex dresses, leaving just a collar and button-stand intact.
The best passage in the show were the intricate, Art Nouveau prints, resembling twisted Liberty florals, sometimes slickly laminated and often fettered and cut-out like Tiffany stained glass. Those were chopped into slim A-line collarless coats fit for the sixteenth arrondissement, but also kick-hem curvy cocktail dresses and high-waisted trousers with a touch of sleaziness to them. It's a perverse sexuality that manages to collide the dowdiness of flood-length, armpit-height trews and oil-cloth more usually sliced into chair covers into some kind of postmodern fetish-gear. That compelling, trussed-up frisson of sex popped up elsewhere - the organza sheer shirts and skirts, for example, which managed through their strict below-the-knee length to look simultaneously prim and improper. That's the kind of kinky contradiction Sitbon has made her calling card. It looked again great today.