“Sorry, sorry,” a clearly emotional Nicolas Ghesquière mouthed while taking his bow after his Balenciaga show on Thursday morning. Sorry for what, Nicolas? Obviously, the apology was for the collapsing benches that fell like tasteful horizontal dominos as the room filled up. After three or four crashes, and before anyone got hurt, knock (lacquered and splintered) wood, a female voice over the p.a. system asked in two languages for everyone to stand and watch the show fully upright.
Happily, the falling seats proved the second-most memorable part of the proceedings, trumped big-time by the clothes. Here was a tour de force of structure, volume and high chic. “Real fashion,” one astute journalist said, exiting the show. And how.
Talking fashion with Ghesquière is fascinating, particularly when he gets going on the precepts of Cristobal Balenciaga. In a conversation on Wednesday, he explained this season’s research. “I don’t know if oversize is the right term for that type of construction,” he said. “But this famous, and for me, a very functional, concept of Cristobal is the idea of the space between the body and the fabric. The clothes float away from the body. It’s one of the big iconic things of Balenciaga. The fluidity of floating is beautiful, but it is something else. An architectural piece floating around the body is very structural. I think it’s something that Balenciaga invented.”
Balenciaga invented, and Ghesquière reinvented, the concept with this collection, infusing it with his own bravado and Space Age-industrial cool in a manner which, for all its audacity, provided a perfect framework for clothes that should play fabulously at retail (cheeky runway shorts not included in this thought). “Space between the body and the fabric” implies big, and these clothes featured grand proportions, beginning with high-shine, round-shouldered jackets that look far more substantial than their light-as-air reality. They came in graphic color plays over wide but otherwise teeny-tiny shorts, over blouse-matching undies peeking out for propriety’s sake. The dress range impressed, whether in ottoman knits in seemingly simple structured T-shirt shapes or complicated fabric collages, worn with updates of the hats with exaggerated, downward-sloping brims that Balenciaga introduced in 1967. Who knew he’d presaged Darth Vader? Ghesquière also offered a new jeans silhouette — really — with pleat-cum-beltloops, and for dress-up, a pair of cellophane-skirted wonders. Sorry, Nicolas? For what? Certainly not this inspired display of real fashion.