J. Mendel Spring 2014

by Alex R. Travers

_ON_0417.450x675Gilles Mendel’s collections have always been artful gifts of observation, expectably sophisticated and savvy. For Spring, Mendel citied the song “Cargo Culte” by Serge Gainsbourg, the provocative French singer and songwriter, as inspiration. If you’re unfamiliar with the record, it details Gainsbourg’s dripping fantasy towards a very young Melody Nelson in a near spoken vocal delivery.

According to the press notes, “Mendel crafted Gainsbourg’s free-spirited muse as an ultra-refined New York sophisticate and elevated ingénue silhouettes to the very height of elegance.” He came pretty close. A blush and nuage silk gazar and scuba dress with a box-pleat mid-thigh hem was special, even by his exacting standards. A silk off-the-shoulder dress with tiered pleating was subtle yet innovative. For evening he tried the usual routes, from elegantly sexy to visually surprising, but fared better with the former: a mixed lace off-the-shoulder gown with a crepe wrap skirt in crimson. His final look, a noir graphic lace embroidered gown, had a busy composition—its grandiosity seemed to stumble upon itself.

The accessories here were something to cherish, such as the black mother of pearl minaudière and the smartly selected shoe collaboration with Manolo Blahnik, featuring ankle strap pumps and cutout mesh booties. There were also a few day clutches with Art Deco-like patterns worth mentioning. Then there were the furs. This season, the better ones came in a pale chartreuse stripped fox and lace vest and a white shadow fox and graphic lace jacket. The patched mink and metallic lace shift on Bette Franke wasn’t as flattering, even on the house’s favorite model. Still, you have to give top props to Mendel. He gives a new luster to the word luxury, and continues to perfect his craft with discerning discipline.