What felt like 28 endless days of fashion shows finally concluded in Paris, where Sarah Burton presented her debut collection for Alexander McQueen, Louis Vuitton exuded utter camp, and a toddler captivated audiences at Chanel.
Karl Lagerfeld presented an 88-look runway spectacular (not that we were expecting anything less), accompanied by an 80-piece orchestra at the Grand Palais. The magnitude of the production provided proper weight to an otherwise airy, deconstructed collection inspired by film noir classic "Last Year at Marienbad." Coco Chanel actually designed costumes for the 1961 movie, but while Lagerfeld's spring 2011 drew on the house's signature black-and-white palette and tailoring, his slightly more raw versions lacked any of the film genre's ominous undertones—especially when it came to feathery evening wear and edgy lace numbers. To top the stunning succession of season-defining ensembles, the pinnacle of the presentation came when model Brad Koenig walked with his adorable two-year-old son in matching Chanel jackets and jeans.
Sarah Burton's debut collection for Alexander McQueen was both an unenviable task (considering the shoes she had to fill) as well as an opportunity for the designer to shine—and she did so masterfully. At once paying homage to the fantastical signature that is Alexander McQueen, while also making a collection that was beautifully her own, Burton displayed thoughtful opulence in the form of kaleidoscopic, naturistic prints recalling both ocean bottoms and forest creatures, detailed with intricate raffia plumes, embroidered satin regalia and harnessed lace and billowing silk. McQueen's spirit seemed to seep through each incredible piece, like an otherworldly embellishment on Burton's own tangible presence.
Marc Jacobs' direction for the spring 2011 collection came from a line in a Susan Sontag essay: "The relationship between boredom and camp taste cannot be overestimated." Cheers to a fairy dust-sprinkled, maximalist attitude in someone as brilliant as Marc Jacobs. With the intention of over-stylizing everything, the designer made for spring a veritable party wardrobe infused with elements of colonial Orient, the Roaring '20's, disco knits and art deco. Nevertheless, the conga line vibe was just for fun. These pieces are essentially all woman—and a glamorous, powerful one at that.
Alber Elbaz's solid spring collection was, in a word, exquisite. The softly sporty, earth-tone dresses were simultaneously stretchy and swishy, while others popped in deliciously juicy hues. Sheer gowns seemed to be independently alive, and the use of warrior-worthy metal embellishments made the cavases dazzle that much more. Even somewhat lacquer-finished nylon raingear managed to appear practical and divine all at once. The word chic gets thrown around like candy these days, but the very marrow of the word can be felt in collections such as these.
From Phoebe Philo's skilled and inherently French hands flowed another covetable cadre of remarkably clean, on-point garments for spring 2011. The increasingly ubiquitous trousers are voluminous for next season, and everything maintains a light-but-concise air in pure white, pale neutrals or, in the case of buttery leather and architecturally structured silk, pops of orange, sapphire and midnight blue. Hints of something a bit busier than the usual geometry of tailoring could be seen in a fringed shrug (albeit in monochromatic cream) and a boxy stripe here and there, but that strong, straight line continues for the most part at Celine.