Christophe Decarnin was not present to take his bow at the end of the Balmain show. The designer was absent under doctor’s orders, after having recently been released from the hospital, where he was said to have been treated for depression. A Balmain spokesman said Decarnin was involved in the design. This season, he worked with a new stylist, Melanie Ward, who replaced Emmanuelle Alt, who is focusing full-time on French Vogue. Whatever the division of labor between designer and stylist, it made for a strong, cleaned-up take on Balmain’s standard fun and flash. Aesthetically, it was a welcome change to a look due for a bit of evolution.
The first exit out was a shiny black suit: slick jacket over cropped pants that — surprise! — had breathing room. It set the tone for the rest of the show, which maintained the sparkle and sex appeal that customers have come to rely on while elevating the level of chic. The strong shoulder was reimagined as a goat hair shrug with a collar over a plain white shirt and black pants. The hemlines still bordered on indecent — in fact they might have actually climbed — but, delivered on elaborately tinseled tunics with long sleeves and a loose fit, the short stuff was more refined. Perhaps most surprising was the improbable minimalist streak that coursed through the tailored goods. Embellished or not, jackets and plunging jumpsuits were cut with clean, fresh lines.