For the first time in his two years at Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia feels at home. After spending his initial seasons exploring the relationship between his own creative proclivities and Cristóbal Balenciaga’s legacy, Gvasalia feels that he has defined his vision for the house and he was ready to unleash it for fall. “I had kind of, we can say, a creative revelation in October,” he said backstage after the show. “I realized exactly what I wanted to show today.” That would be his first coed show, set around a big “snowy” mountain tagged in graffiti inspired by Nineties snowboarders and zeroing in on what he considers the two most important house codes: sleek tailoring and volume.
Finding his comfort zone yielded a very strong collection, one that kept apace the staggering momentum Gvasalia has swiftly delivered to Balenciaga, yet also had an air of steadiness. After disruption, it’s important to develop consistency. Again, he played to extremes. Bouncing vivid colors off of black and tackiness off the bourgeois, and tipping proportions off the scales with supersized bags and jackets are now familiar enough to be considered signatures. The lineup escalated from the most pared down to the excessively built up.
The show opened with a simple, short midnight velvet dress for women and a black, gloved velvet turtleneck and plain trousers tucked into black shoes for men, and it closed with coats so big they rivaled Mother Ginger’s skirt from “The Nutcracker.” Eight children didn’t run out from under Gvasalia’s coats, but it did appear as if eight other coats — hoodies, ski parkas, preppy staples and garish faux furs — had been layered underneath, though the garments were one enormous piece. Backstage he mentioned the influence of extreme weather and snowboard culture, but the eye of the beholder spied Russian dolls and perhaps a wincing glance at the homeless/refugee crisis. Who else needs to wear their wardrobe all at once?
In between the small and the extra large came innovative examples of strict, sculpted tailoring — hourglass jackets with accentuated hips for him and her — that were actually the result of 3-D printing. No darts, just two seams, which was pretty cool.
Gvasalia iced the cake for the Instagram age. He made up a boy band, Speed Hunters, and fake concert merch to go with them. Men’s shirts were printed with a phone number — +33 156 528 799 — which reaches a Balenciaga hotline complete with a survey. First question: What gender do you identify as? (Curiosity waned before the second question came along.) There were belts strung with colorful plastic keychains and car keys, vibrant shopping bags printed with adorable puppies and more pointy-toed sock boots in electric colors. Everything synced to display of Gvasalia’s savvy understanding of Balenciaga back then and fashion culture now.
He made his fashion message crystal clear and put some Kering CSR where his mouth is. There were baseball caps, T-shirts, sweatshirts and fanny packs bearing the World Food Programme logo. Balenciaga will donate 10 percent of sales of items bearing the WFP logo to the organization, the largest humanitarian aid group fighting world hunger. That’s pretty cool, too.