Demna Gvasalia wants us to look glam for the apocalypse. If Balenciaga’s Fall Winter 2018 collection was a message for us to keep hope alive in an increasingly turbulent world, the Spring Summer 2019 collection was all about letting the world burn — but looking great while it does.
The show was held in a tunnel studio in Paris’ La Cité du Cinéma with visuals provided by Canadian digital artist Jon Rafman. The at times disorientating backdrop ranged from calming blue raindrops to a Windows update message, before descending into a darker, flame-filled technological chaos.
Best known for his dark screen captures of Google Street view, Rafman’s work explores the impact that technology has on our lives and our society — and judging from this show’s visuals alone — it’s not a good one. The show’s background and industrial soundtrack set a threatening scene for the unusually glamorous collection.
SS19 turned away from what some have referred to as Gvasalia’s memeification of fashion. Gone was the dadcore, the office worker looks, the streetwear and the meme-able moments. Instead, Gvasalia ushered in a new moment of power dressing.
The collection featured plenty of things we’ve seen before — shoulders were large and harsh, and shoes were pointy — but instead of seeming like a rehash of previous seasons, the tailored looks served as a continuation and evolution of Gvasalia’s at times brutal silhouette. Elsewhere, women’s looks oscillated between bodycon and restrictive (one dress even held down the arms of the model) to oversized and voluminous yet still carefully tailored.
Compared to previous seasons, SS19 was a lot less focused on generating as much internet reactions as possible, but that’s not to say it didn’t include some soon-to-be street style bangers. The designer returned to tourist-inspired style with a sparkly Eiffel Tower print that appeared on dresses, suits, and tops and an almost subtle “Balenciaga Paris” print featured on coats and dresses. That wasn’t the extent of the Balenciaga branding, though. The logo popped up on sheer tights, a tee, and featured on oversized shoulder tags that popped up throughout the collection.
For someone who helped bring in a craze of high fashion hoodies and sneakers, it was striking that the show contained a distinct lack of streetwear.
The collection was heavy on the glamour — formal wear and party dresses ruled and there were distinct echoes to an 80s excess aesthetic. In place of oversized tees and hoodies, the glitz continued with the men’s looks. There were sharp suits, leather trousers and a host of printed shirts that will seriously threaten Prada’s dominance in the attention-grabbing shirting market. Even the more lounge pieces weren’t streetwear-inspired. There were soft velour trousers, and what looked like a hybrid between suit trousers and tracks pants, complete with contrast vertical stripes.
But the glamour didn’t make the collection feel stuffy. Instead of the too-cool-to-care thrown on outfits from previous seasons, but Gvasalia’s club kid aesthetic lived on with the men’s looks in particular — the leather trousers and tank top combo is already a classic club silhouette.
So does this mean we’ll be casting off our streetwear in favor of formal shirts and dresses? Really, it all comes down to your personal choice. When the technological dystopia comes — do you wanna be comfortable or do you want to be glamorous?
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