Balenciaga: Shop ‘til you drop Parisians
A love letter to Parisians, Parisiennes and their obsession with shopping at Balenciaga, delivered in a mammoth sound studio, covered in asphalt to become a giant city street, where the models marched as if desperately late for an appointment or a romantic tryst.
A vast show, over 100 models, and probably the most significant collection of the season; vividly reworking the DNA of Balenciaga – volume, unexpected fabrics, noble silhouettes – into dramatic modern fashion.
Again, Balenciaga’s creative director Demna Gvasalia took us to the industrial heartland of north Paris, to the Cité du Cinéma. He sat his audience of 600 underneath a giant, illuminated drop ceiling that changed color throughout the show. Signage outside warned guests affected by strobe lighting not to enter.
Last season, the Georgian couturier built a vortex tunnel in the same space, this season he used every inch of the space, and eliminated all runway photographers, highly unusual in fashion, creating an "ambient way of showing our work from the past three months."
"It’s my modern vision of Parisian style. Looking again at the Balenciaga codes but in my own manner," said Gvasalia.
Hence the choice of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s baby doll dresses, the multiple versions of the cocoon coat and a plethora of rep coats, the padded outerwear that the Spanish couturier made famous.
However, this was no easy homage, but an exacting modernization of the house’s codes. Gvasalia experimented with lots of fluid tailoring, employing 3D molding, used subtly to exaggerate the sleeve head. Plus, he had lots of tailoring tricks up his sleeve, so the jackets and jerkins appeared highly constructed but the garment was fluid and easy when worn.
Beautifully cut wrap coats in primary red and bottle green, devoid of buttons, which Gvasalia regards as retro. Dropped at the back, though in a different way to the 50s, when Balenciaga reined supreme in Paris.
"I fell in love again with Paris, by moving away. There is no Balenciaga without Paris. So, this is our modern vision of what Parisian style means today," smiled Demna, who now lives in Switzerland.
Plus, the designer went faintly logo crazy: most men’s boots and ladies patent leather court shoes had double shiny silver double Bs. While B also turned up on mini handbags, water pouches, belt buckles, chunky pendants, hand clasps and even on the big toe of many female models. The full name emblazoned on the backs of nylon spy coats with huge funnel collars, or even tracking diagonally across hyper-wide shoulder coats, the key look in this important collection.
"There is not the time for one logo, they come and go. It’s all about identity. I can do that for one or two seasons; or maybe even for five years," he insisted.
No final cast walk through on the set, a massive tarmacadam space. This asphalt will be recycled – Balenciaga is a Kering company committed to sustainability – and used on city streets in an agreement with the Ville de Paris.
"It’s a symbol of building new roads in fashion through asphalt you could still smell," laughed the Georgian designer, whose family was forced to flee the former Communist state during its bloody civil war. Escaping to the consumer culture of Western Europe, an experience surely referenced in this show, where many models marched with multiple shopping bag and even more logos. Six months ago he showed Eiffel Tower images and tourist merchandise. This time he really went for it with enough shopping bags to embarrass Imelda Marcos.
"It’s my ode to my customers. That’s my audience. People who actually go shopping, who love fashion. I rarely go on the street in Paris these days, but when I do this is what I see!"
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