Fashion is all about hitting the zeitgeist at the right time, and Paris Vogue's new editor Emanuelle Alt is making a daring test of that principle with a tuxedo-special issue.
Timing is key to becoming a recognised trend-setter
If you thought being first, either to wear or to design something, was the ultimate goal in fashion, you'd be wrong.
It's actually more a question of timing. What is important is being able to hit the zeitgeist at the right time, neither too early nor a second too late.
The British designer Vivienne Westwood has always been one step ahead of the game - often to her detriment. Being "faster than the system" (her motto) means that by the time we are all wearing her designs (which include crazily high platforms much like the ones currently in fashion) she's moved too far on to reap any recognition.
Fashion is still catching up with the silhouette put forward by Alexander McQueen a decade ago of long, skinny jacket and slender trousers.
For a fashion magazine, being the first to hit on a trend, particularly one that looks likely to be all encompassing, is another matter entirely.
I spent last week doing the rounds, visiting several mass-market and chain stores to preview their autumn/winter designs. A few months after the designer ready-to-wear shows, it is always interesting to see what the high-street stores - Topshop, New Look, Bhs, Gap, River Island and so on - have decided to back in terms of trends and key pieces.
There were lots of colour block items in vivid "traffic light" shades (red, green, amber) as well as an overwhelming nod to the 1970s in Gucci-style palettes of purple, orange and viridian green. Maxis, long knits, smock tunics and trilby hats are all coming back.
Another trend is pared-down architectural tailoring reminiscent of the 1960s; I'd guess the Burberry Prorsum show had something to do with that.
Key pieces include the all-in-one, wide-legged trouser suit, capes, pleated knee-length skirts, silk blouses, leather trims on pockets, flat loafers and, above all else, the tuxedo. Tuxedos are the undisputed stars of the autumn/winter 2011/12 season, in velvet, satin, wool, cord, leather… You name it. You may feel such an eternal classic needs no visual reference, but I'd still recommend you whet your appetite on the May issue of Paris Vogue.
For her second issue in charge, Emmanuelle Alt, who took over in January, has chosen to go big on a trend that is technically not supposed to arrive until the end of August. From the cover featuring Kate Moss in a Giorgio Armani Privé (haute couture) tux cardigan festooned with golf-ball-sized paillettes, to a main Le Smoking fashion spread, Alt weaves the tuxedo theme through the magazine with an assured touch that augurs well for her editorship.
There's an article on the beautiful Iranian actress, Golshifteh Farahani, the star of There be Dragons, Roland Joffe's new film rooted in the Spanish Civil War. Farahani is photographed wearing an Yves Saint Laurent tux and Dior Homme shirt and bow tie. Smart move, nailing a rising star of both film and fashion.
There's also the requisite page of famous tux-wearing icons from Charlotte Rampling to Barbra Streisand to Julie Andrews (in the movie Victor Victoria). And there's a jewellery spread featuring a tux-clad model (a homage to James Bond?) accessorised with diamonds by Cartier, Boucheron, Harry Winston and Fabergé.
To Alt's credit, there are several fashion spreads that leap off at tangents and cover relevant seasonal trends from stripes to 1970s rock chick, channelling Suzy Quatro and the "mullet" hairdo.
The ongoing androgynous fashion moment and French-chic vibe have set the scene perfectly for the return of the tuxedo, but what is so clever about what Alt has done is that she reminds us what a classic perennial it is. Teamed with a white shirt and bow tie, it's an ageless dress-up which, done correctly, can be as glamorous as any evening dress, regardless of the season.
Alt is a trouser girl, which I suspect will eventually have a knock-on effect on fashion, just as leg-flashing trench coats did with her trailblazing predecessor, Carine Roitfeld.
By not focusing on her favourite wardrobe piece (plenty of time for that), she shows both discipline and an understanding of what a woman wants to see in a fashion magazine.
It was a gamble backing the tuxedo so early but in doing so, Alt has thrown down the gauntlet. Even with a few months leeway, I'm not sure another magazine can do it any better.