paris fashion week: balenciaga

(images via style)

i’m choosing to go the route of pleasantly surprised with regards to alexander wang’s a/w 2013 paris fashion week balenciaga debut–that doesn’t mean i think it’s a balenciaga collection, or that it does the kind of justice that the house heritage deserves, but nevertheless, if this show had manifested under a different name on the paris runways, i’d probably have mostly pleasing things to say about it. yes, really, and i’m admitting some hardcore bias here, so perhaps you should just clap me on the shoulder, and let me move on about my day. okay? great!

anyway, as you can probably imagine, the critics all decided to shriek, and shuffle, and all that jazz, but anyway, we’d probably be best served to remember two things: 1) that mr. wang, with his eponymous label, seemed to have them in his pocket from the word ‘go’ (as to how some designers manage this and not others, i’ve yet to figure out, but i’m sure it has to do with some kind of behind-the-scenes connections or money–see rodarte and christopher kane–and no, you’ll not talk me out of that one). and

2) that since always (at least, as far as i’m concerned) they’ve been in the (ahem, ppr, ahem) pockets of whatever balenciaga has done (see a/w 2010, resort 2011, s/s 2011, pre-fall 2011, a/w 2011, s/s 2012, a/w 2012, s/s 2013). and yes, you can tell me alllll you like about how great a designer nicolas ghesquière was, and maybe you’re right. i mean, i loveloveloved the a/w 2004 and s/s 2006 collections, as i did the aforementioned a/w 2010. but–ahem, ahem–did you see the a/w 2006 show? can you tell me why kids were in such a hurry to trot out those, like,enormous helmets?

or that bleeding german shepard sweatshirt that we talked about from the pre-fall 2011 show?  i mean, seriously, there were times i wondered if homeboy visited a trailer park to get ideas whilst snickering at whether he’d get the fashionies to swallow some of this dreck. but none of this is new. i’ve wondered all of it before. simply put, however, i think that a lot of these critics have alliances we know nothing about (or merely suspect), and i think the likes of ppr and lvmh are much better placed to create them. hence…the sometimes inexplicable love.

but right, on the subject of mr. wang’s debut. i must allow that there was some lovely tailoring and construction and work–but i think we know the house of balenciaga probably has some of the best craftspeople in all of the world, creative directors aside–and many of those prim little black pairs of trousers worn with the smart tops that ended just around the navel line (a shakeup from the decidedly cropped or longer versions that have been pervading of late), such as a slightly cropped pant-and-matching boat-necked black shirt on fei fei sun reminded me of raf simons’ work at christian dior–he’d been pushing those looks for his a/w 2012 & s/s 2013 haute couture and s/s 2013 rtw collections.

but i think i’ve said enough, and lest we run out of time, we should listen to the critics, yes? and so, “(f)rom what we can see – the front only – this looked like a powerful, controlled, blisteringly modern collection with just the right quotient of reverence for the master’s work,” offered elle. “Not the sporty vibe one might have expected from Wang, but the polish and chic of a designer beyond his years. It was cut almost entirely in monochrome. He opened with a black coat, with rounded sleeves, a simple silver bar-like safety pin at the neck, skinny black trousers and shiny flat black boots that echoed the neck with silver fastenings  – undoubtedly best sellers in the waiting. As were the second-skin suede boots that reached over the knee and the single bag style, in black and white – a petite, boxy number, framed with a handle.”

and us vogue shrieked that “Wang had wanted a ‘statuesque, monolithic feeling,’ and looked to reinterpret the idea of marble in a number of inventive ways, from the black velvet traceries on organza to the chunky teddy-bear shaved-fox intarsia. Skinny ribbed knits were painted with a gesso effect that covered the surface with an interesting craquelure effect; self-colored piping was embroidered onto a textile’s surface like free-form scribbles, and silk was blistered to resemble a dish full of pearls—or caviar. It was a thoughtful, pragmatic collection that carried the promise of an intriguing new direction for the house.”

meanwhile, style declared that “(s)ome in the audience said Wang’s collection didn’t have the shock of the new that even Nicolas Ghesquière’s earliest shows for the label did. That may well be true. But if the silhouettes hewed closely to the house’s rigorous lines, Wang fused technology and technique to come up with compelling new textiles. The cracked, paint-spackled mohair knits were some of the best things on the catwalk; they made for a nice metaphor, too, about the promise of a young designer ready to break with the past when the time’s right.” hmm. nice way to blame it on others “some in the audience…” this just confirms my point about all that ppr cash money. ahem, yes, er, rather…

anyway, elsewhere, according to grazia, “the designer must be congratulated for bringing much of his own sensibility seamlessly into the collection…There were few vivid or kitschy stand-out pieces – save the blogger-worthy stormy, marble veined fur jackets which closed the show. Instead monochromatic good taste and simple elegance prevailed. This was a catwalk show which was immediately understandable and resolutely sellable. With the modern fabrics – think embossed, plasticized sweaters – clean and simple cuts and those kick-ass, toe cleavege revealing heels, this collection is sure to deliver the retail hit which Wang will ultimately be judged upon.”

“Perhaps most surprising, and happily so, this collection didn’t hit you in the face with the overt commercial mandate that many have assumed was behind Wang’s appointment; rather it felt smart, accomplished and well designed. As for its retro quotient — probably inevitable, given the circumstances — Wang delivered it deftly and well. But based on his body of work in New York, it’s hard to imagine him embracing obvious retro over the long haul,” salivated wwd. “Nor did the show offer the heady thrill of Nicolas Ghesquière’s best work, the brilliance of which brought the house from decades of dormancy back into the forefront of fashion until the designer’s tenure there started to sour. But for a collection not a minute more than two months in the making from first glimmer to runway, it made for an impressive start.

and uk vogue ventured in that “(i)t’s fair to say that there was more Balenciaga than Alexander Wang in this particular collection – the looseness of his fabrications replaced by something stiffer and more luxurious here – and it was right that he let the house take over. It’s a big house after all and this is his first season. It was a considered start and we could see that he understood the difference between what he does and what Balenciaga needs to be – looking through the eyes of both the man himself Cristobal Balenciaga (for he couldn’t and wouldn’t not), and Nicolas Ghesquière, both of their influences duly noted.”

and then–ever the pragmatists–the guardian slapped us with the financials (we’ll at least they’re seeing that): “Wang’s debut suggested that the commercial instincts which led PPR, the luxury brand group behind Balenciaga, to hire him were shrewd. Francois-Henri Pinault of PPR has said he hopes Wang’s Balenciaga will be ‘approachable’, which is an only slightly coded way of saying he hopes it will sell….Backstage, Wang referred to the show as ‘the first chapter’ in a mission to retell the story of Balenciaga so that it strikes a chord with a broader audience. Where Ghesquiere’s design processes were intricate and multi-layered, Wang’s approach was to present the subtle, nuanced codes of Balenciaga in a new, simple way. As Wang commented after the show, Balenciaga himself ‘took the avant-garde, and made it everyday’.” hmm. yeah, okay. aren’t things all the clearer now?

(see the fashion show video here)

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