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The Fashion Emperors' New Clothes

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Photo: Patrick McMullan

Helmut Lang and Tom Ford came back into circulation this week, and here's the thing: Neither of them had clothes. Link Theory Holding (parent of Theory) owns Lang's name now, and the new Helmut Lang S/S 07 collection is being designed by Nicole and Michael Colyvos, themselves ex-Habitual designers. The new line lacks the old Helmut's transgressive touches, and in a way, that's appropriate. One of the reasons Lang was so beloved by the Zara–Club Monaco–Gap supply chain is that his minimalism was really easy to reproduce in more commercial form — just remove the kinky leather harnesses and bondage straps, leaving fitted trench coats, neatly geometric dresses, slim trousers, and narrow jackets. They probably won't be smoothing out Lang anymore, because Theory has already done it.

Tom Ford kicked off his return to active duty with a very-hyped party at Top of the Rock for his fragrance, Black Orchid. The event was produced with typical Fordian perfectionism: The entrance was red carpet, the air in the elevators was heavy with scent, the waiters were all male and all slim, and the décor was blackest black. As was Ford's perfume bottle, naturally: a fluted, rounded flask made by Lalique that looked like something that would have come out of a Paris fashion house circa 1925. Maison de Tom Ford? The scent itself is so heady and dense it's a throwback to soakers like Opium, Giorgio of Beverly Hills, and Poison — the kind of thing that will get banned in restaurants for interfering with the food. If this is a flag in the ground for a new empire, Ford seems to be abandoning his previous image as master sex purveyor and taking up the new conservatism. Maybe he'll reanimate the power suit — good-bye cleavage, hello shoulder pads?

Janet Ozzard

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