Balenciaga’s FW17 womenswear show may have been hotly anticipated at Paris Fashion Week for all the wrong reasons. Following the claims of model abuse that roiled Balenciaga’s FW17 casting last week, the lauded French house was eager to redirect attention to what it does best – clothes.
Despite the controversy, it was never really going to be a difficult feat for a brand helmed by Vetements wunderkind Demna Gvasalia. For FW17, the agenda-setting Georgian designer continued a fascination with oversized, dramatic figures with a close eye on the historic French house’s kaleidoscopic archive.
The Business of Fashion's editor-at-large Tim Blanks described the venue as a “massive soulless space,” and also added that, “it had all the charm of an underground carpark.” Given that Demna Gvasalia’s last menswear collection for the brand probed corporate artifice (and spawned a new trend we’ve dubbed #officecore,) holding the brand’s latest show in a conference room is simply an organic mutation of a long love affair with the banal.
The space was decked out in a drab, gray carpet emblazoned with the brand’s logo, giving absolutely nothing away. In the age of fashion dramaturgy, where a show’s set, visuals and accompanying everything is as closely dissected as the actual clothes on offer, Gvasalia is breaking away from convention. By offering the audience's crazed iPhones in the air nothing but a windowless basement to incessantly “gram," he has already reset the agenda once again.
The Collection Highlights
For FW17, Gvasalia harnessed the opulence of Balenciaga’s history and redefined key pieces in a strictly bulbous silhouette. Most of these pieces were Balenciaga couture, issued in celebration of the house’s 100th anniversary and Gvasalia barely touched them. Aside from a few cosmetic tweaks and totally inflating silhouettes and shapes, he largely maintained these pieces as a purist salute to Cristóbal Balenciaga’s definitive legacy.
Gvasalia injected his zeitgeisty cool at exactly the right moments, though. The pencil skirt, for example, an emblem of pedestrian office fashion, was totally redefined by the designer's choice to render it in repurposed car mats in a variety of color ways. The designer also reprised his love for Bernie Sanders (the Senator’s campaign logo was rife across Balenciaga’s previous menswear collection) by printing his logo on shoes.
Despite lots of couture-esque, flouncey pieces, Vetements’ anti-fashion and normcore-inspired DNA also made its way into Balenciaga’s latest offering. Asymmetric fastenings on outerwear teased an inevitable new street style trend, as did the Matrix Sunglasses accompanying a slew of looks and an array of anoraks and cozy sweaters made for a striking contrast against the tectonic beauty of the couture showpieces.
What The Critics Say
Vogue chief critic Sarah Mower praised the result of Gvasalia’s heady knack for contrast. "He nailed it,” she said in her succinct review.
Similarly, Tim Blanks' diagnosis was resolutely warm too. “The practical, the positive and the surreal twist - Demna Gvasalia's reasons to be cheerful on fashion's front line,” he said on the brand’s latest feat.
It’s another solid collection from a designer who is clearly assured and comfortable in his ability to totally redefine fashion conversation at large. Needless to say, we can expect futuristic sunglasses plucked from deep inside The Matrix to be a ubiquitous street style trend. The haphazard fabric draping and asymmetric fastening may have come off a little OTT but it will no doubt spawn an infectious styling trick for those eager to replicate the Gvasalia aesthetic.
For more on the Gvasalia effect, read Vetements CEO Guram Gvasalia’s most candid interview to date.