Appropriation. It’s what Demna Gvasalia does. His whole approach to fashion is to observe, cherry-pick, rearrange and put it back out there in a manner both practical and, for the moment at least, ultracool.
It sounds like the perfect approach for an arriviste creative director at a storied house with deep, rich archives ripe for plucking. Yet apparently, not all borrowing is equal. Upon his arrival at Balenciaga and through last season, Gvasalia sought to incorporate obvious house references into his collections, with the results sometimes forced. For spring, he decided, enough with Cristóbal tributes, and decided to move closer to his Vetements approach. “This is now what I wanted to be about — things that I like and things that I value,” he said backstage postshow. He looked at pictures of bourgeois dressing around the world, and combined the elements that resonated with “street and casual [elements], and you know things that everybody kind of associates with my work, more or less. This was the main base of the collection.”
It made for engaging viewing, Gvasalia’s finest effort yet for Balenciaga. To note points of pilferage — garment attached to garment à la Comme des Garçons; tweeds and quilting à la Chanel; punk tartans à la Westwood — what’s the point, when that is the point? Gvasalia happily ’fesses up. Yet it’s also part shtick. This was no mere sartorial hodgepodge, as several distinct themes imposed cohesion on the diversity: classic striped shirtings over the tartans; sweatshirts wrapped and tied in front into polite shawls; vibrant shirtdresses; big, lace-trimmed ribbed pullovers over floaty skirts; tight jeans with flashy pictorial prints, and that doubling up, most flamboyant in colorful outerwear pieces tacked onto the front of more sober outerwear pieces.
Gvasalia took disparate themes, motifs and items, as well as his latest collaboration, this one with Crocs — a 10-cm. take on its famous clogs — and worked them into a collection that projected ample attitude with a sly undercurrent of charm. It felt interesting, fun and gutsy. Best of all, it felt like fashion.