Balenciaga returned to form – in a literal sense – for the FW19 collection which kicked off morning proceedings yesterday at Paris Fashion Week Women's. Demna Gvasalia's seventh season at the Parisian house saw the designer further evolve his iconoclastic design language with new shapes and volumes for the new menswear frontier, which is increasingly about game-changing tailoring and less about ironic, luxury sneakers. FW19 proves that Balenciaga is leading the conversation for both.
In contrast to the psychotropic tunnel designed by Jon Rafman for SS19, this season's catwalk was a more singular affair, with the clothes at the center of attention as models brushed against the front row in a tarmac-laden, blacked-out studio. Like most Balenciaga shows, the models walked like they really had to be somewhere else, with an attitude that was urgent, dramatic and resonant with The Matrix-inspired film recently released for the label's Summer ’19 campaign.
FW19 opened with precise, button-less tailoring with a hunched shoulder on the blazer. The shirting was playfully dissected with short sleeves on the front and long ones trailing off at the back, with a callback to the normcore color palette as seen in the SS18 "dad-core" collection (slide #14).
Denim was fitted to bootcut dimensions, with an occasional checkerboard print fading down the front with an aquamarine "PARIS" tee tucked in. The outerwear was expectedly oversized but with new shapes arriving via the hooded split-tail in slide #2, a floor-length patent leather trench in slide #4, and a double-breasted hunched coat in slide #17.
Models carried variations of the label's luxury shopping bags, with various corporate-style logos, a "I Heart Paris" print, and, amusingly, a frowning face. Elsewhere models wore simple branded sidebags carrying water bottles. The big mood here is that Balenciaga wants you to stay hydrated while shopping in the capitalist dystopia, but– as denoted by the frowning bag – it expects you to feel ambivalent about it.
For womenswear the standout item was also a new silhouette, this time a dress with a protruding hooped neckline that sat tentatively on the collarbones appearing in crushed velvet, neon pink and sparkly cobalt. There were no sneakers to be seen (except for those carried in the luxe shopping bags), instead footwear took the form of silver-capped boots for men and gold-embossed wellington boots, pointed kitten heels and bow-tied red stilettos for women.
Balenciaga continues to phase out the ironic streetwear and "ugly" glamor that propelled it to the top of fashion food chain (we can count one lonely luxury hoodie from FW19), in favor of looks that marry Gvasaslia's now post-ironic luxury with the house's traditionally pioneering approach to shape and form.