Alber Elbaz has often said that he would design differently if he was a thin man: 'Lightness is a fantasy for me'. Lightness, coincidentally, has been his leitmotif for the past decade or so. That's while his clothes continually look so modern. It's also a key 'trend' if you can call it that, for S/S 2011, so Elbaz was uniquely placed to capitalise.
It's impossible to run through a complete litany of the references and effects Elbaz pulled in this season - as with his ever-expanding front row of Formula One celebrity fans, his collections have exploded in size and scope to become multi-faceted extravaganzas. This time, the single unifying element was merely a concept: lightness. That was expounded in multiple disparate garments, whether it be the light-as-a-feather airborne chiffon skirts of the opening numbers, or the grand shape of a stiff, multi-seamed silk sleeve-head which nevertheless managed to look as weightless as a macaroon. There was a feeling of ease to everything too, to flat sandals worn with simple cocktail dresses or Elbaz's new three-piece suit - jacket, tunic, trousers with a shoulder-slung bag for practicality. The collection had an air of Claire McCardell about its sporty simplicity, not the first time her name has been bandied about as a reference, but certainly the most consummate. Add to that other American minimalists - there was a touch of Halston to floor-length hyper-simple sheaths, and Norman Norell came to mind with caftans and a finale of frocks weighted with embroidery, beading and elaborate fabric-work.
It's easy to get bored with a single note, so Elbaz combined the light, floaty femininity with a hard-edged minimalism. It's an argument we've seen on many catwalks over the past few seasons but Elbaz decided to mesh the two quite literally. Thus he weighed down the chiffon with leather harnesses, even experimenting with a literal collage, slicing apart floaty and firm frocks and patching them back together with thick industrial zips. It sounds hackneyed, but looked fantastic.