NEW YORK, United States — Francisco Costa was working on womenswear at Gucci in 2001 when Tom Ford stirred up controversy with his “Marilyn Monroe” collection, and even more with the Kate Moss campaign that accompanied it. So, Costa has form with blonde bombshells.
For his latest Calvin Klein Collection, he was thinking about Jean Harlow, the original 1930s bombshell, whose publicity shots often featured her in a silk charmeuse slip dress that could, in another era, have slunk straight off Calvin’s catwalk. One of Harlow’s most famous movies was Dinner at Eight. Costa imagined her the morning after such a social event, a little worse for wear, a little déshabillé. “Distressed glamour,” he called it. “Deconstructed, decadent.” It was obvious why they were called slip dresses. These examples slithered and drooped over the models’ bodies, deemphasising their natural assets. Decadent, maybe, but also oddly naïve — an impression that was reinforced by the unfinished hems and seams. Julia Nobis’ chain-mail knit was laddered to rags. Even the silk sneakers were frayed. The coats were so big and raw they looked like a child’s idea of a coat, like a work in progress. Same with those dresses loosely suspended from straps.
Costa claimed he didn’t usually pay much mind to evening-wear, but this collection had some of the evening before the morning after in the long, sensuous lines of slips lightly glossed with sequins, or silken floor-length florals and some sensational “silk garter belt” trousers. Costa outlined the dresses with slender chains, to which he’d attached little charms and found objects. Jean Harlow? No, Joan of Arc, he said. Martyrdom, medievalism… where did they come from? But then, Costa has always been snappy with an obscure reference.
Frédéric Sanchez contributed a perfect musical counterpart in a soundtrack that mixed Nina Simone, Massive Attack and the Orb into a narcotic blur. The morning was, in the end, all a beautiful dream.