The nameplate necklaces in Alber Elbaz’s fall collection for Lanvin said it all: “Happy”, “Cool”, “Help” they read in big gold cursive lettering.
It was indeed a happy and cool collection (we’ll try to suss out the “Help” part later), but before we even had a chance to take it in, Elbaz, ever thoughtful, made sure to make us, his guests, happy first. He plied us with champagne and beer, sweet and salty popcorn. Set in the stunning courtyard of the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Elbaz’s loyal fans, including Catherine Deneuve and Oscar nominee Emmanuelle Riva, mingled and smiled graciously for the cameras. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. I even spotted Anna Wintour and Grace Coddington having a laugh together.
I would imagine everyone left in a good mood, too–at least I did. For fall 2013, Elbaz put out a fun, flirty, and not-so-serious collection. “Girls playing dress-up” was one of the first notes I scrawled into my notepad. Kati Nescher opened the show in a black dress cut with raw edges and a tiered ruffled skirt looking like she put on all the jewelry in the dress-up box–a crown, one of those big “Happy” necklaces, a big charm necklace that said “Help”, and several bulky chains. All that exuberant excess was tempered by plain black oxfords. Most of the dressy looks–neoprene dresses with big flouncy A-line skirts, loudly printed and embellished confections (we’re thinking mostly of this amazing matching beetle print top and pants worn by Aymeline Velade in look 43–and the two rhinestone dragonfly-covered tops that preceded it)–were styled with comfortable, practical, patent leather oxfords.
Elbaz always pays attention to what women want–and that’s to be comfortable as well as to look glamorous. His signature peplums, which didn’t show up this go round, allow women to look good and eat dinner, he’s said before. In this collection, the stretchy sheer tops, the neoprene dresses, and the flimsy silk slips all looked easy to wear.
So what’s with the “Help” necklaces? Do women need Elbaz’s help getting dressed? Surely. But maybe it was more about Elbaz himself looking for help. “I felt this change of direction, a kind of crazy [mood] in Paris that I didn’t see before,” the designer told WWD. “Bloggers and editors who are all about being photographed and then designers who are mad at each other, and all of a sudden, that whole thing. You question everything, and you start asking, ‘[Do] I belong here anymore? Is it what I want to do for the rest of my life?’”
Perhaps all the childish layered on bling was a knowing wink to all those editors and bloggers who accessorize-to-the-hilt in an effort to get photographed. But underneath all that street style bait were beautiful, flattering dresses. We hope that means Elbaz has decided he wants to stick around. Because the industry would be a much bleaker place without him.