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Cathy Horyn Paris Fashion Week Review: Balenciaga

 


In the usual order: Valentino, Balenciaga and Thom Browne.
Photo: Getty Images

Sunday, church day in the Christian world, and the floodwaters rose in Balenciaga. Or at least I thought so. The priests did their magic. But were these men made of cloth or, moreover, men? More than once at the Balenciaga show, what seemed wrong was actually real, and vice versa. For example, I thought that the huge black void in the center of the space where we were sitting in the style of a stadium on a sound stage was at least a full story and that when the models came out , we would watch them. Indeed, as the light effects started on the ceiling (storm clouds, swarms of birds), I thought that the empty row of seats in front of me was not a correct row but rather a ledge. I could die, I thought.

A moment later, when it was clear that the black void was actually a shallow pool and the first models were crossing it in their black suits and priestly dresses, the woman next to me said, alarmed : the water rises? His imagination told him that it was.

Balenciaga
Photo: Getty Images

Obviously, we are inundated with news of disasters and extreme weather conditions. You cannot turn on the television without seeing pictures of the floods in Europe. It was the most obvious way to see Demna Gvasalias' film set for Balenciaga as the backdrop for the effects of climate change. But what about priests and nuns? Biblical magic of walking on water? Her clothes weren't real nuns, but fashion editors were once called nuns because they wore so much black. And some of Cristobal Balenciagas' first creations were austere black velvet dresses that Spanish aristocrats could wear en masse.

We live in a world of questions, said Gvasalia in an interview after the show, when he was back home and out of his Wellies. What is true or false? Equally relevant: what is possible?

Balenciaga
Photo: Getty Images

Gvasalia has systematically reinvented Balenciaga in a way that few diehards could have imagined a few years ago. It is getting stronger and stronger. He is an example, with Marc Jacobs and a few others in fashion, of someone who thinks big. Not only did he recreate the mundane imagery of a Parliament meeting room last season, but he also spoke of the creeping uniformity of bureaucrats and other authorities, a style we tend to take it for granted. Other designers can strike an emotional chord. Gvasalia digs under your skin. At the same time, he is fully aware that he has to sell products. Sunday, mixed with black suits and fetish priest dresses, there were Balenciaga motocross leathers, soccer jerseys and denim.

Thom browne
Photo: Kristy Sparow / Getty Images

Gvasalia remembers seeing priests in robes when he was a child and wondering why he was forbidden to wear robes. He was hardly the first designer to overturn the religious costume. And it has now become pro forma in fashion to largely ignore gender norms and put everyone in skirts (or pants). On Sunday, in a superb show based on another biblical story, Noah Thom Brown's Ark sent out models in pairs in identical costumes and coats as witty as they were well designed. Since each face was veiled in black mesh and the seam was masculine, in an animal-cracked blend of masculine fabrics and details, you couldn't always tell the gender of a model. And of course, that did not matter.

Thom browne
Photo: Kristy Sparow / Getty Images

But with Balenciaga, focusing on priests or nuns or the climate disaster may be missing the best part: how Gvasalia continues to give a modern vernacular to the historic forms of brands. Towards the middle of the parade, a model came out in a Prince of Wales pantsuit buttoned at the neck and compressed around the body, the hips slightly rounded. Gvasalia says he initially looked at Victorian women's fashion, with its extreme contours obtained through corsetry. Of course, we cannot use a corset in 2020, he said.

So he used neoprene glued with jersey. The stretchable result which, according to him, is not human when it is on the hanger preserves both the body shape and the formal properties of a suit.

It is this questioning, in the service of fashion, that makes Gvasalias' work so fascinating. (He shows his first haute couture collection for Balenciaga in July.) The rest is a big budget hocus-pocus.

Balenciaga
Photo: Getty Images

Despite the bad weather in Paris and growing concerns about the news of the coronavirus (some editors came home early), the shows were generally solid. Pierpaolo Piccioli delivered a wonderful Valentino collection. In the past, I barely knew what to say about her ready-to-wear. It resembles either a Roman dream, all feminine and tanned legs, or the contents of a girl's bedroom, a Vesuvius of roses and frills.

This time, however, he sent a stream of black stitching, with thick-soled jodhpur boots and minimal decoration. There were beautiful straight-line coats and immaculately cut woolen dresses or two-piece numbers, including a soft black leather outfit with slightly puffed sleeves and a slim mid-calf skirt. Piccioli also showed superb soft wool pants, in gray or black, with pinched jackets, and an elegant (but not difficult) interpretation of the military buttoned brass jackets. He had beautiful evening dresses, especially in dark green or red sequins, but the news was day clothes. They finally gained weight.

Valentino
Photo: Getty Images

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