“High tech is over,” Nicolas Ghesquière declared before showing his Balenciaga collection. “And the clubbing.” True and true. But not the way Ghesquière puts forth a bold manifesto to spectacular effect.
He said he wanted to keep the collection very French; hence his change of venue from an in-house showroom all slick and tricked out with edgy lighting to a series of salons at one of Paris’ most storied hotels, the Crillon, with its glorious views of the Place de la Concorde. The setting, it turned out, was only part of the ultrachic Frenchness of a show with shades of both Yves Saint Laurent and Emanuel Ungaro. Ghesquière took what became the bourgeois standards of both — Saint Laurent’s impeccable tailoring and color play; Ungaro’s draping — pushing, manipulating and, in the case of the latter, exaggerating it big-time. And despite his protestations to the contrary, he infused the results with an element of the futuristic audacity that has become his hallmark. It made for a collection both powerful and plenty savvy, as the newly relaxed constructions should have broader commercial appeal. (Which is not to say they’re for chubbettes.)
As always, Ghesquière honed his message for crystal clarity. He showed only a few silhouettes, almost all centered on the voluptuous, hip-focused draping. Skirts came in black-based or luminous, icy color mixes, the fabric gathered lavishly from the center or one side. One beauty, in tones of silver and black, was paired with a faux tweed top crafted entirely from caviar embroidery. Others got loose, sensual blouses worn over lace bandeaux. Ghesquière also showed gorgeous jackets, strong and clean through the shoulders with abundant hip festoons, over sari pants — an innovative evening proposal inspired by a piece in the house archives — or classic trousers. One stunner: a smoking in a discreet mix of black with deepest navy. When Ghesquière opted for less draping, he went for printed punch in a group of dresses, a number of which, it turned out, weren’t prints at all, but intricate embroideries. And if some of these were dizzying to excess, a fab tuxedo jacket over mannish striped trousers offered spare relief.