Lanvin celebrates 125 years this season, and in the minds of many, designer Alber Elbaz has been there for most of them. This was a very special occasion. Time for a retrospective collection? Oh yeah, get ready for “The Best Of Lanvin.”

Elbaz chose a very interesting way to start this presentation. Doing riffs on his jersey tee dress, which was rather fun and interesting on its own, he chose model’s from the label’s past: Amber Valletta, Kirsten Owen, Violetta Sanchez, Natasa Vojnovic just to name a few. What he was emphasizing is that it’s not just the styles that make the Lanvin house great, but the women who wear Lanvin. Elbaz has always been sensitive to designing clothes that look good on women and make women look good. He drives that point home in a hurry.

Yet, Alber wasn’t content to just re-run history. He re-invented some of his own pieces, sending them down the catwalk in a decidedly and intentionally unfinished state. Some were stapled together. Topstitching came into play. Some were unstitched all together. Raw. Strong. Different from their original incarnation, but still as attractive.

A section of fractured lace, all done in blue, may be my favorite from this collection. There’s a little bit of historic Lanvin and a lot of Elbaz in these pieces that merge yesterday with today, lace with mesh, low plunging necklines and scalloped hems. He bridges so well the gap that one feels as comfortable with the contemporary elements as though they were pulling an old favorite out of the closet.

The final set of prints, done in gold and pink, seem exotic to some degree, but are actually from a screen done by the architect who designed Lanvin’s original headquarts, Armand-Albert Rateau. There is an incredible richness in those last few pieces that brings the whole collection to an emotional fortissimo. With clothes done this well and this exciting, what woman wouldn’t look good wearing them?

One really doesn’t expect a retrospective collection to be quite this exciting. Pulling from the past too often comes off feeling retro in a disjointed sense. Elbaz celebrates the glory of Lanvin’s 125 by proving just how timeless and modern the house is. What Jean Lanvin set out to do over a century ago, make clothes that are actually wearable by real women with real lives, is still what the house does best today. This is an incredible anniversary collection and with Elbaz at the helm we likely will continue celebrating for many years to come.

Photo credit: Yannis Vlamos

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