Boy oh Boy!

Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2016/2017
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The Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2016/2017 collection, which was unveiled in Paris earlier today, had to the one of the most (if not the most) highly anticipated shows this season. Everyone wanted to see what Vetements’ co-founder Demna Gvasalia would do in his new position as Creative Director for the fabled French house. He once said that he’s “driven by making fashion that has a place in the real world. The attitude is in the clothes themselves”. Would it be a perfect fit? A match made in heaven? Or would he falter? Well, he blew it away!

Balenciaga by Alexander Wang Spring 2016 Ready-To-Wear

It was obvious that it would be a complete departure from that of his predecessor, Alexander Wang, who was Creative Director (with varying degrees of success) from 2012 until his last collection for Spring/Summer 2016 which was held in Paris last September. Whereas Wang said farewell with a collection that was delicate, soft and dreamy (a vision in shades of ivory played out almost entirely in lace), Gvasalia did what he does best. He successfully merged the touch, gritty streetwear elements that have defined the design collective and cult label Vetements (founded in 2014 by 7 graduates of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts) with the couture elements of Balenciaga.

In fact, his program notes described his new vision as “a reimagining of the work of Cristobal Balenciaga – a wardrobe of absolute contemporaneity and realism imbued with the attitude of haute couture. A translation, not a reiteration. A new chapter.” While it was certainly experimental (with its exaggerated shapes), and represents a new, fresh point of view, it was never ridiculously over-the-top. In fact, it was believable, relatable, wearable, and it looked relevant and modern. To his credit, Demna showed a lot of restraint throughout the well edited, perfectly proportioned collection which put an emphasis on cut, tailoring, and controlled volume.

It was a mix of street and couture, day and evening, and boy meets girl. Menswear (patterns and shapes) has been a trend throughout the ready-to-wear collections, and of course, androgyny is something Vetements has been known for. So it was not surprising to see neutral hued plaids and checks, crisply striped button down shirts (with the shirttails often flying), pea jackets, trench coats in leather and poplin, fabulous shearlings, double breasted blazers with somewhat exaggerated shoulders, puffer jackets, jeans and jean jackets. But Gemna managed to take these basic and familiar (unisex) elements of a wardrobe and make them just unfamiliar enough so as to be desirable.

The collection was hardly minimal. In one instance, a black turtleneck entirely covered in crystals, was paired with a red (off the shoulder) puffer jacket and black ski pants. There were oversized clutches, large structured satchels with pronounced silver chains, and enormous market totes in graphic stripes. Oversized chains were affixed to sunglasses (everyone will want those!).There were gold and somewhat punkish silver metal accessories (earrings, chokers, bracelets), and the unexpected use of rhinestones (which appeared as clip on leaf shaped earrings and as decoration on colorful pointy toed high heeled pumps). Naturally, there were also fierce high heeled platform boots (ankle and thigh high).

And, who may I ask, could possibly mix multi colored florals with candy cane striped tights, or pair a bright floral frock with matching boots, and make it look remotely hip and cool?

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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