#SuzyPFW: Balenciaga Gets Back into Shape
The Balenciaga show was powerful in many ways, from its background of fake mountains scribbled with graffiti to its telephone hotline printed on a T-shirt. That was another twist of reality by designer Demna Gvasalia who had created a “pretend” boy band as the answer to any calls.
But the power of this show was not in the cool interventions, nor even a profound desire to promote the World Food Programme that Demna said was “a really very special project for me to do because for the first time I thought that fashion could be useful in a different way than just covering the body”.
Rather, it was the elegantly cut clothes, especially coats and jackets, that made the designer seem in this Autumn/Winter season a fine fit with Cristóbal Balenciaga, the original brand founder.
The show opened with a blank statement – or, more precisely, with a short dress contouring the body, followed by tops and trousers, including a livid, bright green, body-conscious sweater with slim trousers. Menswear was in this mix, but first only as another androgynous figure in bright top and skinny bottom half.
After a demonstration of shape, as soft fabrics wrapped and crossed the body, came the heart of the show: curvy jackets emphasising the waist by a swell at shoulders and hips. They looked like instant objects of fashion desire for both sexes and a key development from the more dramatic, overriding silhouettes that came through first at Vetements, the Gvasalia brothers’ original brand.
For this collection, the idea seemed to be an exploration of those early structures, but with the shapes refined and, as the designer put it, with added “sleekness and tailoring”.
”For me, the main thoughts of Balenciaga are volume and innovation in tailoring,” Demna said. “Balenciaga himself was a master, and the archives of the clothes from that time are from a specific point of view. My idea was to reinterpret and modernise it and see how we can work with traditional means of tailoring.
“So, basically, we went into high-tech,” the designer continued, revealing a technical surprise. “For the first time, I did digital fittings on a laptop. We 3D-scanned bodies and then we altered the shapes in files, 3D-printed them and actually made moulds. The tailoring part that you see is all printed. There are only two seams on the side and the arm hole. There are no darts, there is no construction, and it’s only one layer of fabric.”
This was, indeed, a revolution, yet the effect was not in any way Star Wars or super-human. The 74 outfits for both sexes looked like normal clothing – especially the exceptionally well cut, double-breasted jackets. If this is the result of digital workmanship, the traditional fa#shion workers will be looking for new jobs.
But perhaps Demna’s greatest skill has been to learn how to make clothes that no longer look scary, or peculiar. This was a collection where the dosage of any idea seemed just right: the big colourful flower prints; the tailored padded coats.
Thrown into the mix were some weird effects, like a shocking pink hair basket. But there were also those T-shirts promoting the UN’s World Food Programme.
Just as at his outset, Demna Gvasalia seems like an absolute original. One who, at Balenciaga, is adding a lot to fashion – and, by joining the fight against hunger – to the world beyond.