As of writing, Paris Fashion Week has bought us some fashionably basic looks from Hedi Slimane's Celine (snore) and an impressive Paris debut from New York label Telfar. But a predictable highlight, as always, are the new offerings from Demna Gvasalia's Balenciaga.
Showing his first collection since announcing his departure from Vetements, Gvasalia delivered his new wares on a helix runway in an EU-blue room with the AC on blast. Among the 91 looks were prosthetic cheekbones, LED sunglasses, ballgowns, avant-garde business-wear, and some styles that could have easily been sported by your local bowling alley assistant manager. Welcome to the current era of capital-F fashion, where everything is on the table.
Check out the best looks from Balenciaga's SS20 show below.
This Feather Blade Earring
Balenciaga accessories, much like the clothes, repurpose the banal and the mundane into high-fashion items. Hello tongue, meet cheek.
Previous seasons have seen Balenciaga accessories inspired by the likes of Comic Sans MS, hotel keycards, and the pine tree-scented air fresheners that hang in the front of taxi cabs. The point is, if you take an ordinary item and write the name of a luxury fashion house on it, it transforms into something different, and will be viewed accordingly. Gvasalia is only all too aware of this — it was the bread-and-butter of his work at Vetements, who retailed a black hoodie reading "It's My Birthday and All I Got Was This Overpriced Vetements Hoodie" for just under one thousand bucks.
For SS20, Gvasalia turned his imagination to the feather blade razor, an invention from 1792 that allowed men to shave without needing to visit a hospital unit for unsavory cuts to the neck. While a regular razor blade typically costs about 20 cents and doesn't have any fashion credentials at all, this version actually spells Balenciaga down the middle, and (we're hoping), isn't actually as sharp as it looks.
This XXL Jacket
Some of the more "meme-worthy" pieces from the SS20 collection (not that we want that!) were these XXL jackets in normcore colorways that rise well above the shoulder and appear about four times as wide as the model enveloped within. The jacket makes us think of small children sneaking into a cinema as one gangly adult, otherwise known as the totem pole trench coat, quite possibly the first time such an image can be associated with a luxury fashion house.
Ageing comedy tropes aside, this outerwear piece, styled with some bootleg cut denim, and hands steadfastly placed in the front pockets is actually a continuation of the shape pulled from the label's founder Cristobal Balenciaga, who debuted his cocoon-shaped silhouette in 1947.
The Tuxedo We Didn't Know We Wanted
As we've been saying ad infinitum, tailoring is back and bigger than ever. However, the tuxedo is not something we've seen on the runway (or the street), until now. Traditionally, the tux is elevated above its more casual suiting equivalents thanks to the satin lining on the lapels.
Balenciaga's take on the classic tux was surprisingly restrained when it comes to proportion, (note the relaxed shoulders), but Balenciaga's deference to a memorable silhouette comes through in the narrow fitting pants and shiny square-toed shoes. This is basically how we want to arrive for fancy dinners from now on.
Also, that matching blue boutonnière in the models top pocket and black fingernails? *Chefs kiss.*
This Glamorous Athleisurewear
Did you think athleisure was completely washed at this point? Think again.
This outfit plays into the idea of the cozy and casual millennial dress code but with some important distinctions. Firstly, the top is glittery, tight-fitting, and faintly sheer, meaning that tucking it into a relatively plain (although perfectly-fitted) pair of tracksuit pants gives you the vibe of someone who works out exclusively in expensive gyms during the day and hangs out in even more exclusive clubs in the evening.
The patent leather shoes on foot signal a kind of athleisurewear 2.0, a perfect outfit for those of us who want to look like we mean business but are also prepared to curl up for a quick depression nap at a moment's notice. It's basically a uniform for freelancers.
Literal Catwalk Chic
Balenciaga's all-in-one pantashoe (those pants that are also boots) are synonymous with Gvasalia's vision of the house, but this high-neck pantashoe-catsuit is on a whole other level. Rendered in a black/red tiger stripe colorway, (a recurring color combination for SS20), this piece is sure to find itself on a host of wily influencers and artists in the approaching season.
Appropriately, the model was spared one of the new Hello Kitty handbags and was instead given the ultimate influencer accessory: the iPhone 11.
This Co-ordinated Assemblage of Unusual References
This 'fit combines three very different and niche spheres of interest we hadn't expected: It's Motorcross-chic on the pants, America's Next Top Model on the top, and Hello Kitty on the handbag. Well, why not?
The graphic on the T-shirt is probably a bit more Vetements than Balenciaga, but any homage to Tyra Banks' problematic, but highly impactful, modelling competition is a yes in our books. The look is wrapped up with the new Balenciaga sneaker which features some complex detailing across the overlapping rubber panels and the sneaker's name, "Tyrex," (another Tyra Banks reference?) printed on the square-capped toe.
Among the IRL architects and mechanical engineers that walked the Balenciaga SS20 runway was actual working model Bella Hadid, who was given one of the best looks of the collection. Collar bones? Out. High Heels? Laced. Paris Fashion Week Attendees? Left for dead!
The Lotta Volkova vibes emanating from this red velvet bod-con off-the-shoulder long-sleeve dress are palpable. Styled with a neutralizing faux-crocodile skin handbag and double "B" scallop shell earrings, this look says "do not fuck with me."
In fact, it says "don't even look at me or breathe the same air as me," which is basically the reason to buy Balenciaga in the first place: to intimidate and alienate people with how fashionable you are.