Betsey Johnson still pulls off her age-defying cartwheels on the runway. John Galliano has impersonated historical characters, including Napoleon. And Jean Paul Gaultier has chased Inès de La Fressange down his catwalk. But tonight, Lanvin’s Alber Elbaz might have taken one of the most unusual and touching bows in recent memory. After the models retreated backstage, the backdrop parted to reveal an orchestra in an enchanted setting, with none other than Elbaz himself as the lead singer. “I’ve been training for this. I want to thank the people who helped me realize my dream. I love you,” the designer announced, before serenading the giddy audience with Que Sera Sera. The drag singer Joey Arias then took over, while Elbaz went down the runway to plant kisses on the cheeks of a few front-row guests.
Then the party celebrating his ten-year tenure at Lanvin began, complete with scrumptious patisseries, champagne galore, paillette blizzards, and singalong hits like Funkytown and I Wanna Dance With Somebody. Midway through the festivities, attended by the likes of Tilda Swinton and Dita Von Teese, a fellow journalist whispered, “See, girls can actually dance in Lanvin.”
It’s true that Elbaz’s user-friendly approach has the advantage of no-brainer prettiness and unconstrained proportions. That same mantra ran through the show, starting with zestful, colorful peplumed suits in what looked like neoprene—plain except maybe for a zipper at the back. Then embellishment came in the form of cocktail dresses richly bejeweled or adorned with coiled ruffles. A sudden gold eruption brought brocade fabrics and a beautiful hooded lamé coat on Jamie Bochert. And the great ending section—i.e. a black lace minidress with blue elbow length gloves, a red coat and belt, and pink shoes—had an unmistakably offbeat, whimsical Christian Lacroix quality.
Rather than exploring new routes, the show (and the party, for that matter) summed up the formula that has made Lanvin such a hit on Elbaz’s watch. Despite all the house’s success, the designer has strived to convey innocent sentimentality, promoting universally comforting things like Parisian chic, sweets and cheerful music. Women now go to Lanvin’s shows and stores for their love fix, the way they would reach for the chocolate box on a girl’s night in.