paris fashion week: balmain

(images via vogue)

although i (really and truly) don’t plan this, and at least try to go into each and every fashion show with something of an open mind, there are just those moments when i simply can’t. glancing through the images of the latest balmain show, for the f/w 2013 season at paris fashion week–i couldn’t help myself. now. i know i’m supposed to remember at all times we’re looking at someone’s art, and there are always those kids who are going to like it, but then again, there’s, like, this.

now, i’ve had some seriously harsh things to say about balmain in the past (see f/w 2010, s/s 2011, f/w 2011, resort 2012, s/s 2012, f/w 2012, s/s 2013), and when christophe decarnin was the creative director, i had problems with the house enough, but in the seasons since olivier rousteing has taken the helm, i’d say it no longer even features new ideas. instead, we’re forced to see mr. decarnin’s old ones regurgitated through the lens of as much ostentation as possible, with glam and bling aplenty so the rich want to buy it, and the rest of us (if we dislike what we’re seeing) are simply told we don’t have the taste and money to ‘get’ it.

well. i beg to differ. because seriously, when one captures a model with a bangin’ body and an angel’s face like joan smalls and crams her into a pair of baggy, high-waisted black-and-gold disco pants that look to be roomy enough (and looong enough) in the crotch to smuggle several pairs of illicit jeans into the soviet union, we’ve got a problem. and i haven’t even gotten to her tina turner-in-mad max beyond thunderdome-inspired shoulder pad action, or the belt buckle so wide kids in the backseat of a minivan could play their cartoons on it. suffice it to say, i could never imagine this woman could look bad. but i guess mr. rousteing deserves credit from me for that, at least. a victory of a sort, non?

okay, i’m sorry. i don’t mean to suggest that, like, if you’re a lover of balmain, or indeed, even mr. rousteing’s work that you’ve bad taste. some kids do and will like this, and more power to them. but maybe i can phrase things in a different way: i actually found the colours, such as the beautiful parrot green with the metallic scarab beetle glint on magdalena frackowiak’s jumpsuit quite lovely, for example, and those geometric motifs on many of the little structured dresses were very pretty as textiles, with their elaborate beadwork. so, other small victories.

it’s simply that on the whole, i can’t imagine where these clothes would flatter a woman’s figure, or factor into lives that aren’t, like, beyonce’s or rihanna’s. and that says something about the kinds of clothes that one designs, especially as we know balmain isn’t trying to go full-on conceptual like alexander mcqueen’s sarah burton when she sculpts haute beekeeper masks for her girls, yannow? so instead it simply feels as though the house is trying to resurrect the middle ages, and the differences between the dress of the haves and the have-nots, with as much bling an ostentation as they can, and little regard for anything else. well, what can i say then, i guess, but i wish them luck with that.

anyway, now’s the time, i guess, when we hear the fashionies rave about the range, and if you liked it, then this is for you. besides, it’s always interesting to hear some differing opinions, non? so, according to fabsugar, “(i)t wasn’t the first time we’ve seen references to ’80s-girl glitz from Olivier Rousteing, who gave us similar luxe last season in bold shoulders, crop tops, and Beetlejuice stripes. This lineup zeroed in on that same silhouette — oversize shoulders and tiny, tiny waists made even more obvious by wide leather and metallic belts to cinch every look.”

meanwhile, us vogue declared that “(i)t would take a mean spirit to disparage Rousteing’s youthful drive to honor, emulate, and explore the essence of French savoir faire in making clothes. Some of the handwork—like the pink lattice-worked, lacquered 3-D leather quilting, and the gold-and-black strips of leather woven to mimic an enlarged tweed check—is remarkable, and unique to the house. But put it all together in those full-on (and sometimes extra-widening) top-to-toe looks? Fine for a certain type of fashion shoot next season—though what we’d all rather see is a Rousteing version of how a real girl could wear this,” so there, see what opt is? ha. but i stand by my opinions nevertheless.

and the washington post explained that “‘(u)pbeat, modern and real’ were the words he used to described the collection. With the spiky, in-trend ‘80s shoulders, ‘upbeat’ and ‘modern’ it definitely felt. But ‘real’ — given the collection’s ample Lurex stripes, chandelier crystals, and metallic leather tweed — was quite far off the mark. These were not looks to be worn on the street…Occasionally the sheer richness of the embellishments, layers and fabrics fought for attention and slightly cluttered the silhouette. Overall the collection was strong, though, with Rousteing definitely on to something with the simpler looks such as a great, jade green, V-shape jersey twinned with slick high- pleated sultan pants.

and while enthused, the telegraph‘s response was a bit more measured: “The high-heels on Rousteing’s black boots curved like wicked fangs, and looked fearsome to wear – but the models managed to swagger down the parquet without mishap. One-shouldered mohair jumpers, outrageously deep V-neckline leather jackets with perky peplum-ettes, and one all-gold look that made me crave a Ferrero Rocher kept the high-production kitsch coming .It is highly unlikely that you will ever spot any of these clothes on the streets…but that isn’t the point. Rousteing is carving out his own unabashedly overblown aesthetic and fearlessly stamping it onto Balmain, for good or ill – and with a sense of humour.”

“Shoulders were pronounced, so were hips, and sleeves flared out at the elbows before tapering to the wrists, the yin-for-yang complement to the hourglass silhouettes. Embellishments, meanwhile, were utterly next level: Leather came quilted and embroidered with diamond-shape crystals, or was cut into narrow strips and elaborately woven to resemble tweed. Some of the tailoring looked as stiff as upholstery,” style noticed, “but Rousteing balanced things out with draped silk charmeuse miniskirts and metallic moiré harem pants. Fuzzy angora knits, cut into a dropped-lapel blazer or one-sleeved sweaters, softened the picture further. But, like we said, these aren’t clothes made for lounging…Where Rousteing’s girl goes, the party follows.”

and elsewhere, there was uk vogue, a little sober as they nodded that “(f)aceted surfaces of diamond metallic and embellished decoration, hair slicked back and chandelier earrings to go with it all – it’s a brave look to try and if you can pull it off, well, you’re even braver. Perhaps this is the point Rousteing, now four seasons in at the house, is trying to make. Though repetitive at times, Rousteing certainly cemented his idea of what Balmain’s woman should be wearing next season – dig back out that trophy jacket and go in pursuit of trophy trousers while you’re at it.  True, it’s not all that different from before – it shouts a little louder and in the direction of where the Seventies and Eighties conjoin – but that’s what the Balmain DNA is about: all that glitters and inverted proportions.”

finally, though, in the critical stable, wwd fully understood my perspective, describing how “(f)or fall, the shtick descended into a parody of Eighties nouveau pastiche, where the big question Rousteing seemed to pose was, ‘What would Claude Montana do?’ Shoulders fit for a linebacker with a taste for leather and gold lamé, for starters, as well as a steady supply of wrap harem pants — all cinched high on the waist with cummerbund-like belts — in fabrics such as metallic green Moiré, solid purple silk and one in a fuchsia diamond pattern. Diamonds also featured prominently on aggressively ornate tunics and chandelier earrings big enough to rival the fixtures hanging above the runway in the salons of the L’Hôtel de Ville. ‘More is more’ has been the inferred house motto, but sometimes enough is enough.” so there you go. take from it what you will. but be sure to send me a picture if you descend to the streets in one of these getups come the fall, yes?

(see the show video here)


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