c.2013 New York Times News Service
c.2013 New York Times News Service
PARIS — The last day of the spring 2014 collections began in majestic black as Marc Jacobs closed a significant chapter at Louis Vuitton, and ended a few hours later with a plain white cotton shirt and pair of trousers at Hermès.
Between these two poles, between the black-on-black spectacle of Jacobs’ farewell show and the Hermès final purge, stretched 29 days of exhausting, ethnic-driven, allusive, pompous and, occasionally, rewarding fashion. And much of that action was saved for Paris.
Of course, Wednesday belonged to Jacobs, whose departure from Louis Vuitton after 16 years of shows was anticipated but not confirmed by LVMH executives until after the show. Not that the American news media and retail section, which got on its feet before he came out on the stage, didn’t know what was up. He brought back the sets from several of his memorable shows: the carousel, the “Night Porter” elevators, the railway station clock, even a pair of escalators. All were now coated in black, the chicest color since the Victorians.
And perfect for Jacobs’ poignant, resolute finale for a French company that has defined him as surely as he has defined it. Before he took the job, in 1997, with his business partner, Robert Duffy, helping him, Louis Vuitton didn’t have fashion. It was an esteemed luggage maker. But Jacobs gradually gave it credibility, through his sense of what was new and relevant. He also, in a corporate environment that might fill some with apprehension, became a more proficient designer.
More than anything, what you felt in that somber, tented space in the middle of the Louvre was an American’s infatuation with Paris. Those 16 years were a journey, and Jacobs never got bored. There was the homage to his friend, Stephen Sprouse, whose graffiti splashes on Vuitton bags were the first barrage of change. There were the extreme feathered headdresses of the models (a toast to Paris showgirls) and the beribboned and jet-beaded jackets that reflected an ornamented city.
You need black to do justice to all that beauty. As it happens, this was a sublime show of clothes, in large part because his feelings came through in the many plain, sensuous dresses etched with black lace and maybe, above all, in the amiable jeans, shown with lacy T-shirts and the decorative jackets. For Jacobs, jeans remain a basis of a culture obsessed with cool. It was a wonderful departing gesture.
The other shows closing out the spring season didn’t produce an immediate reaction, although that may have something to do with one’s own sense of exhaustion. Also, many designers seem to be trying too hard, and the chance to put across real emotion, as Jacobs did, is hindered by all kinds of heavy obstacles, like early 20th-century art references and female warrior themes.
That was Sarah Burton’s problem at Alexander McQueen. The workmanship and bold palette (mainly red, black and white) was dazzling. Uniform-style coats and kilts were laser-cut, bonded and pleated to an almost papery stiffness. One checkered garment was completely woven with tiny feathers, while openwork lattice columns were beaded. A black motorcycle jacket came with a high, impressively beaded collar, like tribal neck rings.
Yet, even though these designs have been nicely translated to commercial styles, something is missing — and it’s Burton. What if she only had three or four materials at her disposal and no Amazons in her sights, what would be the result? Her confidence in understanding Lee McQueen’s designs is all too obvious, and it’s producing drama but little sincere feeling. Maybe it’s time to let a little bit go and enjoy the risk and pleasure of using her own voice.
Miuccia Prada sent out a vibrant, girl-grown-up Miu Miu show. Boxy suits and classic coats came in spongy couture-type fabrics, often with piping or funny patterns, like cats and birds. There was a touch of Biba in some of floral appliqués (on chic suede coats), and the ironed-haired models were kitted out in wool tights and patent-leather platforms or suede boots. Evening shifts were elaborating beaded and fringed for a dress-up mood.
Another way to look at the white cotton show-closer at Hermès is as a clean page for next season. Ah, but who can think about that now, with a pile of dirty laundry in the hotel room? Although Christophe Lemaire’s collection lacked the savoir-faire punch of fall, his mid-calf, single-pleat skirts in navy and straw-brown were a lovely respite. Also appealing were wrapped cotton shirts, a poplin cape, and lush green floral prints mixed with leather separates.