Giant cakes, an hour-long wait, a foot-stamping, shrieking finale and a designer serenading the audience as a closer. Oh, and did we mention the fashion show of unparalleled excellence in the middle? It could only be Lanvin: but not even any normal Lanvin collection, but a celebration of Alber Elbaz's first decade as Creative Director. Most designers shy away from any obvious birthday commemorations - fitting as fashion's favourite game of musical chairs has reached a crescendo - but there are few figures more comfortable with exactly who and where they are than Elbaz. It takes guts to stand in front of an audience of two thousand people and sing your heart out - but Elbaz has those, in spades.
Elbaz's guts, as always, were reflected in his clothes. The guts this time was in taking a step back, surveying ten years of creativity, and remixing the best bits for the fashion show equivalent of a 'Greatest Hits' LP. They always tend to sell the best, after all, and they're much more fun to have at a party. All killer, no filler.
Try as one might, there are few phrases that better sum up this Lanvin show, opening with blocked colour structured dresses in a single shade of green, blue, yellow, mauve and red, each one the epitome of a particular Elbaz silhouette. A corona of ruffles framed the face in one, another had a jabot trickling down the spine, a third exploded into a firm peplum. Blue neoprene was cut into a cocooning coat, tightly belted. It all looked so right.
If they were about shape, the parade of black looks that immediately followed were an ode to Elbaz's aptitude at playing with texture, of say cloque or matelassé fabric against taffeta, leather contrasting with fur, or tweed against flesh, seams and hems left raw. At one point a Grecian draped silk-jersey dress strutted out just before a structured skirt-suit of leather embossed to look like aran knit. On any other catwalk it would have looked jarring, even in black, but here for some reason it made perfect sense.
Eveningwear this time was the big statement. There were inklings of what was to come throughout, the sudden clatter of saucer-sized rhinestones crusting the front of a felted wool dress like a precious breastplate, say. Still, they were only a warning cannon of the deluge of duchesse satin, ruffles, crystal and multicoloured fox stoles. It was pop couture, a decadent explosion of terribly good bad taste embellished to the hilt. The lily wasn't so much gilded as plated in platinum. It's not something Elbaz unleashes often - remember that neon leopard-print back in 2009? That was the last time we saw this kind of unbridled, slightly unhinged exuberance from him, models vamping their way up and down the catwalk in what could be reclamations of Christian Lacroix's greatest hits. Gloria Von Thurn Und Taxis would have a field-day. These were party frock TNT par excellence.
Dwelling too much on them, however, would be to denigrate what Elbaz has accomplished. Which, in short, is to affect the way women throughout the world dress. That doesn't just mean Lanvin for H&M - it means every woman, anywhere, who has a grosgrain ribbon-and-paste necklace, a t-shirt trailing tulle, exposed seams on an evening-gown, raw edges on a melton wool coat, or for God's sake an industrial zipper chomping its way through a delicate dress. All these are symbolic of a modern and progressive approach to luxury, and to the art of dressing women. They also all originate with Elbaz. That's what the audience were cheering: not Lanvin, not even the chorus of 'Que Sera, Sera', but Elbaz. Pure and simple. Bravo.