At Givenchy and Lanvin, make very brief memories
PARIS – In one of the more unexpected runway trends of the moment, the middle aged model is hot. (Also the transition to the model of middle-aged-in-model terms.)
It started with the return of the supermodels in Milan: Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, Amber Valletta, Shalom Harlow. Sometimes they seemed to bring more news than the clothes. Now the trend has built up in Paris and has moved beyond the celebrity bill to more insider names that strutted down the catwalk at the beginning of the millennium and were scattered among the current Bambi-like harvest: Carmen Kass, Caroline Trentini, Natasha Poly, Mariacarla Boscono – women whose bodies and faces seem mature and sometimes even inhabited.
It is a welcome, long overdue change that gives the idea of inclusivity further substance, even if it is partly due to the youth of the booking designers, for whom such women represent formative stories.
After all, at a time when fame can last 15 seconds instead of Andy Warhol’s 15 minutes, “vintage” means last season and that it was a big deal 15 (or even 10) years ago counts as part of the past.
This has freed designers to some extent from shaking off some of the burdens of historic homes that once weighed heavily on those who inherited their crowns. But it also created something of a breakup.
For example, during a preview of the Givenchy show, the house’s creative director, Matthew Williams, discussed his collaboration with American artist Josh Smith, known for his vivid colors and pictographic symbols. The collaboration was cool, but when asked what Mr. Smith had to do with Givenchy, a couture brand that was once rooted in Audrey Hepburn’s elegance, Mr. Williams looked puzzled.
“It’s really personal to me,” he said finally. The implication was that since he was Givenchy at the moment, that should be enough.
And maybe that’s true. The problem is, a year after Mr. Williams’ tenure, it is still largely unclear what his Givenchy is.
In his first live catwalk show (which, by the way, featured Ms. Poly and Ms. Trentini, among others), which took place on Sunday evening in a stadium-sized arena that looked like another recent explosion, there were sharp little jackets with textured peplums over mini skirts, the angular portrait neckline edged with tiny ruffles, worn with thigh-high leather boots with blocky hammer-head soles like a Victorian sci-fi maid outfit.
Also bra tops and stiff lace trousers (actually: bloomers) under tailored tweed jackets and smooth black trousers with a kind of skirt flap that hangs down at the front and twists between the models’ legs as you walk, paired with wafer-thin corset undershirts. Elaborately crafted boleros made of tiny frills made of tulle and organza over lace trousers that expose the straps of a chiffon G-string. The men’s clothing was heavy from tailoring, with a military air and a few shorts over matching tights.
In the thick of it was the Josh Smith department, with pre-washed vulcanized jeans, brightly colored jackets treated like portable canvases, and multicolored knitwear, each with its own contemporary totem: a clown face, a traffic cone. In addition, some very Instagram-suitable accessories (a trick or treating pumpkin bag, a milk jug) and a very pretty pointillist dress covered with sequins under a black tuxedo jacket.
In other words, there were many ingredients in the mix, some of them interesting, others ill-advised, but not enough to tie it all apart aside from the padlocks and chain fittings Mr. Williams prefers.
Bruno Sialelli has the same problem at Lanvin, which this time included pleated pastel dresses for baby dolls, bouncy floral mini ball skirts with matching bandeaus, silver tinsel yeti chubbies and shorts (men and women in practically the same clothes again), and – Batman! Thanks to a collaboration with DC Comics. On everything from chain mail dresses to sneaker tongues. Because the Caped Crusader and the oldest French fashion house founded by a woman have so much in common?
Well, Ms. Campbell ended the show in a tuxedo suit – and a baggy black cape.