Growing pains, but happy ones. Alexander Wang took a big step forward in his second collection for Balenciaga. He showed under the soaring ceilings of the Observatoire de Paris, where huge arched windows let in the clear morning sky, an inviting backdrop for Wang’s mostly light, airy palette.
After last season’s “prologue” in which he took a quite dressed-up approach, Wang wanted to “take an idea very apparent to Cristóbal and start injecting an idea of ease.” He then came upon some photos of old clothes left to decompose on the sand, which triggered thoughts of garments “unraveling” over time. He wondered if the two notions might make for interesting contrast.
Yes and no. Wang’s first looks out — and for that matter, those that followed — gave no overt indication of the unraveling part of the equation, none of the obvious shredding, deconstruction or other wrecking one might expect. Rather, he showed two sculptural suits in woven leather twine, one blue, one pink, their circular constructions a nod to the house founder but their mood, fresh and sporty. Next out, more obvious athletica: running shorts in the same leather twine, worn matched to either a tank or cropped T-shirt. There were hints of Fifties pool party and Sixties Space Age in shorts sets and veiled minidresses, respectively, but Wang handled his retro with savvy subtlety. He softened the structure a bit in pants and skirts with attached wraparound peplums.
As for the “unraveling,” it proved a starting point for some of the intricately wrought fabrics: fishnet bonded onto leather; an abstract floral that was first printed and then painted in rubber; a reproduced archival ivy print that was crushed and cut out. These were up there with the best of the season’s highly developed fabrics and exhibited one of the fruits of fusion between an inventive designer and a house with major resources.
The concept of decay also led to pretty pastel party dresses, charming, structured frou intended to look as if it were peeling away from its corsetry when in fact, there wasn’t a trace of faux-dishabille in sight. Lovely as these were, something about their fussiness felt a little foreign to Wang’s natural, edgier proclivities — at least as he’s revealed them to date. Conversely, among his best looks: a pair of long leather dresses, their precision cutout detailing done by water-jet lasers. Here, Wang seemed to relax not only the collection’s dominant structure but also its archival homage, along the way striking a lovely balance between chic and ease.