Even a master influential such as Nicolas Ghesquière is not immune to trends. Two big ones showed up in his spring collection for Balenciaga: novelty models and sensible shoes — sturdy flats, all. Still, Ghesquière put enough new ideas in between the girl and her shoes to create a brilliant lineup full of wearable innovation.
In June, the Balenciaga team embarked on a street casting tour through Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Belgium, Australia and so on, eventually recruiting seven girls — characters, as Ghesquière called them — one a dancer, one an artist, all willing to have their hair bleached or dyed black and cut into punky crops. And for every amateur there was a major model persona: Carolyn Murphy, Stella Tennant, Miranda Kerr, (who’s pregnant) and, the closer, Gisele Bündchen.
Stocking the show with personalities was part of Ghesquière’s quest to express identity and individuality. Yet this was a completely unified collection, broken into three sections — leathers, tailoring and dresses — all bound by a consistent boyish attitude. The look was streetwear charged with a bit of London punk and retro rockabilly. Thick, molded leathers were lacquered with exaggerated houndstooth patterns in graphic red, black, white and blue. There were shrunken tailored blazers and men’s wear shirts with metal-tipped collars worn with square-cut, cropped trousers with hard-core grommet belts and variations on the classic men’s creeper with studded soles. Ghesquière has shown his tough side before, mostly in the form of aerodynamic futurism. But this was a loosened-up silhouette, edgy, androgynous, and not all butch.
“There’s a lot of sexiness,” he said. “The boyish side of a woman can be very attractive.” After the biker vests and pants came simply draped dresses covered in exquisite hand-painted sequins, then shells and more gorgeous shirting — tops and dresses — remarkably crafted from multiple swatches of hand-painted lace — pink with blue, purple and orange, some on spongy, water-drop patterns. Some were fused with stark, crisp cottons in couture shapes that buckled high around the neck.
In terms of fabric development, Balenciaga is the textile geek’s promised land. Everything is treated, coated, lacquered and painstakingly manipulated, often by hand. Ghesquière explained that the leathers were embroidered with PVC for a faux-on-real treatment; knits coated with brushed silk, and the finale dresses worked with a sheer layer that looked like coated wax paper. As usual, the technology was amazing, but so was the fact that it didn’t compromise the collection’s purist foundation: classic men’s wear.