Since an equestrian theme at Dior was evident from the first piped-in whinny and clap of hooves, the press notes for Friday’s fall show made for light farce.
Under the heading “The Seduction of the Libertine,” followed by a line of English verse (skip it), the notes detailed John Galliano’s collection of cavalry coats with blown-away collars, the riding tweeds and herringbones mixed with chunky sweaters, and the muted earth tones “romantically restrained like the rebelling gentry of then and today.”
CHRISTIAN DIOR A plaid mohair coat worn over a wool vest and khaki velvet jodhpurs.
The gentry? You mean those people who are running to Costco to stock up on Evian. A half-dozen different romance novelists could have conceived a juicier plot, and as for the Delacroix-inspired evening dresses, lace and mousseline drapes in dusty pastels, you could find close-enough versions right now in shop windows. Mr. Galliano’s haute couture show in January also had riding clothes as a theme, but a watered-down couture show is not really the problem with his latest collection. It is that we’ve seen most of these clothes before.
That was also the sense at Nina Ricci on Thursday night, though the designer Peter Copping has been at the house only a short while, succeeding Olivier Theyskens, who wasn’t there all that long. Mr. Copping focused on kittenish tweed suits and knits with lingerie effects, and silk evening dresses with corsages or seams left partly unstitched so that the clothes seemed a little drippy. The knits looked fresh and the attitude was youthful. All Mr. Copping has to do now is tell us a visually distinctive romantic story.
LANVIN A belted dress of boiled wool embellished with fur sleeves.
At Dior, Mr. Galliano is apparently giving customers what they want. Last season’s lace edging on silk shorts is repeated in the lace-cut hem of a leather coat. Jodhpurs could be the follow-up to last season’s romantic spy looks. But it seems an uninspired brief for a house like Dior. Surely Mr. Galliano can come up with something new and different that doesn’t scare the horses.
Alber Elbaz’s clothes for Lanvin this season have two powerful qualities. They are at once emotional and economical, with many of the dresses cut from a single piece of stretch fabric and perhaps another to whip around the shoulder and down one arm to form a sleeve. The emotion comes from the almost muscular way Mr. Elbaz seemed to drape and gather the fabric. He is not a peplum kind of guy — too old hat for him — but to see a silver-gray jacket lightly pinched at the sides and drawn up into folds at the back was to marvel at how he got around his distaste. Perhaps he imagined he was beating egg whites to make a meringue.
NINA RICCI A silk gown with unstitched seams and a floor-sweeping wool coat.
He also seems aware that he has to continually refine what is modern while balancing it against the demands of an established label. The uniformity of the models’ black wigs, and the repetition of the rounded shoulders, was really an illusion. In fact, within this seemingly narrow framework, Mr. Elbaz said a lot. He showed a new variation on a day suit — smaller, crisper. He cut beautiful plain coats. He used feathers and furs as bold African-inspired embellishment. Still, it was a modern sensibility, and the fierce dress may have been as comfortable as a sweatshirt.
With the lids of the models’ eyes blackened, with hooded or wrapped coats, and complex layers mostly in black and brown, Rick Owens seemed almost in a medieval place. It didn’t help that he showed the collection in a half-dark room. One could make out a slimmer line, skirts with pleated fronts, reptile-like scales on the fronts of garments, and some gorgeous sleeveless coats in leather (lined with fur) that had hoods shaped like a helmet.
Autumn/Winter collections? Not my favourite seasonal collections, sorry to say. The lack of colours bore me and the use of heavy fabrics like wool and tweed makes me feel incredibly uncomfortable (might be due to the fact that we're from a tropical country though...)