Gvasalia’s Balenciaga debut: Paris Fashion Week’s hottest ticket

It was Paris Fashion Week’s hottest ticket, the Balenciaga show that marked the debut of the Vetements collective’s best-known name, Demna Gvasalia.

With Vetements being the most-talked-about and disruptive label to show at Paris Fashion Week, everyone wanted to know whether Gvasalia could make an impact on one of the city’s most venerable designer names. All eyes were on him and his first collection since being hired as the label’s artistic director in October, replacing Alexander Wang.

The answer? Well, while it’s too early to know just how much of the collection the world’s top buyers will be ordering, the fashion press seemed to like it. And it was a major talking point on social media too – although some of that talk was criticism about Gvasalia only using white models for both this show and his Vetements one earlier in the week.

On a more positive note, on Twitter, Bergdorf Goodman said “bravo, Demna” and called it “a fantastic new chapter for the brand”. Meanwhile the FT said it was “the show of the season”. Farfetch said it was “blooming marvellous” and Vogue called it “a transition, not a reiteration, a new chapter”.

Balenciaga also streamed its Paris show on Sunday using 360-degree virtual reality. Streaming via the Balanciaga app, was available for tablet and smartphone devices through Google Play and the Apple App store, and for desktop viewers at live.balenciaga.com. It was an interesting digital move for the Parisian brand.

So, to the clothes. Influenced by house founder Cristobal Balenciaga, tailoring was key. That meant suits, dresses and coats (primarily in checked woollens) that came with angular padded hips and shoulderlines set slightly forward at awkward angles.

They morphed into a more casual strand for wide cagoule-like jackets teamed with the stirrup pants that have appeared on several runways this season.

The cutaway neckline was a key silhouette/detail statement achieved both through the cut itself and the on-runway styling, seen on trench coats, puffers, fine gauge sweaters, bikers and the season’s favourite aviator jacket.

Also on the outerwear front, there was a series of slimmer-cut coats with high waistlines marked by long, trailing belts.

There was a complete change with a series of floral patchwork dresses that critics said recalled the influence of a more recent Balenziaga designer Nicolas Ghesquiere.

And the accessory statements were made via vertiginous platforms, shiny over-knee boots and jewelled shoes, plus eyewear with chunky spectacle chains, candy-striped hosiery and oversized bags.

The critics agreed there were some risky choices within the collection but with a host of positive reviews, there’s a lot of good will behind it.

How well will it sell come September? We don’t know that yet. But for now, the collection has a thumbs-up. As the New York Times said: “Instead of being intimidated by the house’s heritage, [Gvasalia] embraced it and made it his own. With this risk, a reward.”

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