Lanvin Spring 2012 Review

Lanvin Spring 2012

Photos: Imaxtree

Looks from the Lanvin Spring 2012 collection

Show: Lanvin

Hair: Guido Palau

Makeup: Pat McGrath

Accessories: Minimal: baroque jewels, leather chokers, high nude round-toed pumps and open sandals, boxy clutch-bags

Overall takeaway: Angelically elegant and demonically chic

Dante's Inferno isn't the kind of idea you imagine inspiring a fashion collection—at least not a collection by Alber Elbaz at Lanvin, renowned for chic, sleek and eminently wearable clothing. A Central Saint Martins grad with a penchant for the macabre, perhaps.

But as always with Elbaz, the joy was seeing the way he interpreted that theme and made it right for the here-and-now. The inferno came, it seems, from the sharpness of Elbaz's vision—he's been showing soft for a few seasons now, but he toughened up for Spring '12, creating a graphic and resolutely dark wardrobe for a modern woman. It wasn't just the shoulders—although they were forceful and powerful, thrusting out of Elbaz's sleek cocktail wear. This time, those evening dresses were mixed with daywear—Elbaz's argument seeming to be that you could don a sheath dress for the office and luxe "les joggings" for evening. It was a compelling tussle between day and evening.

Even more compelling was the tussle between light and dark, especially when Elbaz took elements that could easily have looked tacky or schlocky—prints of writhing snakes, and even a couple beaded across short evening gowns—and made them utterly exquisite. That takes skill, as does contradicting your entire collection's firm, arrow-narrow aesthetic and throwing out some wild wolves of intense colored Madame Grès-style plissé chiffon at the end. Those billowing panes of cloth catching the wind and flaming back into the distance? That would be an Alber Angel.