What makes a house a home? When the residence in question is the grand, some might say haunted, estate of Balenciaga and its relatively new tenant is Alexander Wang, the process is a gradual one.
For spring, Wang made major inroads in terms of his personal preferences. First, he bucked a scheduling tradition by moving Balenciaga’s customary early-bird 9 a.m. time slot to Wednesday at 8 p.m., an hour much more reflective of his creature-of-the-night tendencies and aesthetic. “I wanted to change the energy, change the vibe, change the location,” said Wang. To evoke this new mood, a black tent was erected over the empty fountain behind the Palais de Tokyo, creating an atmosphere Wang described as “a little less cathedral” than his previous show space at the Observatoire de Paris. The runway was a clear grid, with swirling vapors visible underneath.
The dark, after-nightfall energy cloaked the collection in cool. Since his arrival, Wang has paid respectful homage, this time targeting the archives’ opulent side, its rich embroideries updated with graphic precision in spiky sea-urchin beading, mini florals and micro sequins to complement Balenciaga’s purity of cut. He adapted the latter in two silhouettes, a dramatic A-line and a column, while making them relevant to the wardrobe of today, which is about practicality, utility and, of the moment at least, a strong dose of athletica.
This summer, Wang watched the Tour de France, which was reflected in the aerodynamic cuts of black-and-white boned-crepe bodices with ruched tulle sleeves, worn with abbreviated racing shorts that featured diamond-shaped utility pockets with geometric embroideries. Speedy and sexy, the look showed a softer side on pink, lilac and white dresses — all streamlined, some skintight —offered in intricate treatments of 3-D diamond fringe and net tunics made from clear sequins.
The nod to Balenciaga’s tradition of dramatic cut came in sweeping trapeze maxi duster coats layered over the dresses and shorts. The models wore refined interpretations of cycling shoes in embellished satin and racing sunglasses with thick, embroidered Croakies, which imparted a post-“Matrix” slickness on the lineup that belied its impressive craftsmanship.