UC G TIN R T S N O C E D
THE A/W16 SHOW REIMAGINED THE WORK OF CRISTÓBAL BALENCIAGA – A TRANSLATION, NOT A REITERATION. THIS NEW CHAPTER WRITTEN BY DEMNA GVASALIA IS BALENCIAGA, BUT NOT AS YOU KNOW IT here are a few things you need to know about Demna Gvasalia. One. He is the co-founder at the helm of Vetements – the relatively anonymous cult collective responsible for a seismic shift in the Paris fashion scene and the industry as a whole. Two. He is the newly-appointed artistic director at Balenciaga. Three. He is not one to follow the rules. As posts go, it’s as prestigious as it gets, but the 35-year-old shavenheaded designer born in Tbilisi, Georgia has managed to retain his anarchic energy at the storied house and is having none of the cautious, slick aesthetic that descended down through the tenure of his predecessor Alexander Wang. A risk-taker and revolutionary, the Martin Margiela and Louis Vuitton acolyte has not so much wiped the slate clean at Balenciaga as spliced it, supersized it, shrunk it, repurposed it, covered it in slightly garish prints and tied it up in a practical bow.
With a reputation for boosting the ordinary until it becomes extraordinary, Gvasalia is grounded in the real world. He has a less-than-romantic approach to design and thinks along more practical lines of “wardrobes” as opposed to narratives. Collections are conceived of garments as individual entities; a great dress, a great skirt, a great pair of pants… But we’re not talking about boring basics here, we’re talking about generic pieces enhanced to boiling-point desirability – with functionality and wearability at their core. But how to marry pragmatism and an underground sensibility with a century-old legacy of rigorous technique, architectural shapes and superb finishes? By looking at the way the founder worked with the body. By experimenting with attitude and placing elegance in a modern context. And by pushing things forward without forced cross-referencing.
It began with elegantly hunched tailoring – the classic sylph-like couture pose, a profile of concave stomach, arched back and poised hips – in black, grey and brown flannel, morphed into oversized puffer coats and structured ski jackets that nodded to archival opera coats – yes, really! Think cocooning volumes and open, pushed-back necklines – before moving into cut-and-paste floral dresses worn over candy-stripe tights, an evening excursion of exquisite embroideries and ended with sober sheaths and sensible trenches.
Lest we forget the accessories: bags were based on toolboxes and market bags, there were inward-angled glittering heels, stomping platform boots, chained glasses, quilted scarves and overblown safety-pin earrings. Sounds odd, looks amazing. This is the man changing Balenciaga forever. We can’t wait for the next chapter.