06 January 2016


Alber Elbaz by Irving Penn
What is Lanvin be without Alber Elbaz? The designer’s peremptory and abrupt, and now acrimonious exit from Lanvin last November capped a year of dramatic changes in the world of fashion. 

Designer musical chairs are hardly new in fashion; But 2015’s edition seemed evidence of a trend of dumbing down to the masses, a trend that will shape the way we look at fashion for many years to come. Not all the new queens on fashion’s thrones sit comfortably. You can see that in Alexander Wang’s lacklustre three-year stint at Balenciaga – you can see everyone's palpable relief at not having to witness the products of Wang's struggles. One "cool downtown party" collection is enough and ought to be contained in downtown New Yuck, where it belongs. That sort of thing hardly sits comfortably at the Paris Collections, and can hardly be expected to replace Nicolas Ghesquière's work at Balenciaga. 

Ghesquière had spent 15 years reviving the nearly century-old Balenciaga before he moved on to Louis Vuitton to replace Marc Jacobs. His experiments here are also strangely both over-thought and underwhelming. 

Now there are two more mediacore collections to add to the general ugliness of what's out there.

Lanvin Pre Fall designed by Chemena Kamali and Lucio Finale
In 2015, the world woke up to the Gucci drama of an accessories designer, Alessandro Michele, replacing Frida Gianini as creative director. While many of Gianini’s collections during her seven year tenure at the helm of the label left critics scratching their heads and searching for polite euphemisms, although of course, when she succeeded the iconic Tom Ford (who truly revolutionised fashion for the Noughties), she was lauded with enough corporate praise to sink all criticism. Gianini was hailed as a second coming of sorts and beatified as a fashion saint, becoming thinner, blonder and altered beyond recognition towards the end of her reign. Now Michele is being thusly lauded too, for basically doing some pretty things, and some pretty commercial things, which in the end simply looks like a luxed up version of the hipster trend for all things vintage, a trend already a few years old, with a Wes Anderson aesthetic. It's a sort of Gucci version of the Hedi Slimane's Saint Laurent 'strategy' - give them what they already want - just better made, and priced to appropriately. Note: Lanvin's first collection (Pre Fall 2016) not by Elbaz looks like Michele's Gucci doesn't it? 

And all that is par for the course - after all it's ready-to-wear - but what of a storied couture house like Dior? After Raf Simons stepped down last November, no successor has been announced till today, even though Spring Couture shows are looming. Hopefully they are taking their time to field a visionary creator, and not some gloriefied handbag designer-with-a-proven-sales-record to dumb down fashion even further. 

Hopefully they will appoint Elbaz - he surely fits the bill.      

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