You’ve got to admire Demna Gvasalia. For all his stated philosophy of fashion pragmatism, beginning each collection with a list of essential, must-include wardrobe items, he is genuinely experimental, unafraid to realize and run with audacious ideas. In a short time, that approach has garnered him a great deal of attention, some amusing Internet memes and a reputation as perhaps the coolest designer on the planet right now.
For fall at Balenciaga, Gvasalia again displayed that sense of bravado, his collection packed with twists, turns and grand gestures made with a deliberate street attitude. According to the show notes, these were inspired by the house photo archives, “this unseen record of the poses of [Cristóbal] Balenciaga’s house models as they clutch fabric and strike couture attitudes.”
Looking at those pictures, Gvasalia delivered a raw take on haute motifs, opening the show with a bold coat-and-dress series. One side of each coat was pulled way over and fastened on the opposite shoulder (the actual cut rather than a styling trick), apparently to give the look of a swath of fabric thrown over a model’s shoulder in an unguarded moment. In fact, sans crib sheet, that reference was, shall we say, arcane, the look resonating more latter-day Grey Gardens than haute Avenue Georges V (with a debt to John Galliano). That’s not a dig. These shapes looked bold and fresh, with a wearability range from runway only (or desperate to be photographed entering a show) to real-word chic.
Speaking of the real world, Gvasalia remains interested in repurposing as an idea, here shaping skirts and shirt backs from car mats. And you know what? They looked good. So, too, did a group of big, flyaway tent dresses and a pair of vibrant, abundant sweaters over floral skirts. And an unexpected girl put in an appearance — the coquette, all short, sweet and sexy.
Yet it was for evening that Gvasalia took his biggest chance, not with manipulated closures and industrial materials, but with a silhouette that dared not to be skinny. It was huge. Gvasalia delved into the archive and reworked (with pockets) several of the founder’s haute creations — a black-and-white polka-dot Josephine, fuchsia triple-decker triangle pouf, black-and-white cabana-striped tent, each one fat of fabric and fabulously so. These will form a made-to-order offering (presaging a full-on couture revival, perhaps?). Would that they’d been available for the Oscars — one of these beauties would have been the second-most-interesting occurrence of the show. Going forward, Hollywood ladies, will you dare?