Balenciaga S/S 2017

2016's first tailoring show which also qualifies as fashion statement

Give us the boy and we shall give you the boy, was the famed Jesuit promise to all parents who sent their children to their schools. An undertaking that Demna Gvasalia fulfilled today with a sensational, voluminous and frequently ecclesiastical debut show for Balenciaga in Paris staged on the rooftop of Saint-Louis de Gonzague, a Jesuit college in the tony 16th arrondissement.

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Demna Gvasalia opened his Balenciaga Men’s show with boxy topcoats

With a drone flying above and the Eiffel Tower a soaring backdrop, the models marched out in enthrallingly cut tailoring. Gvasalia varied the silhouette from the beginning; starting with humungous, faintly grotesque shoulders, though cut with such skill the boxy topcoats and long jackets all hung perfectly.  He followed with a series of strict jackets and coats in windowpane checks or deep browns, their buttons displaced so the garments wrapped very tightly around the models. All together this was easily the most interesting and inventive work of tailoring seen in any menswear collection this year. Yes, really that good. His use of detailing was perfect – from the all black carpet covering, simple logo on a gray wall, and pocket-handkerchief that looked like high business cards sticking out of breast pockets.

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Displaced buttons on windowpane check coats

At times the look was almost farcical – as the coats became like coat dresses, worn over high-heeled boots and exposed knobby knees. But ultimately, to make properly new clothes and express a different aesthetic one must exaggerate. Which is what Gvasalia did with justice in this show.

“My starting point was actually a coat that Monsieur Balenciaga had made for himself, which we found in the archives. It was missing one sleeve. Apparently he was always taking on and off sleeves and changing their proportions, which I loved!” beamed Demna backstage.

The show finale was spiritual – a quintet of looks in Roman imperial jacquard and Cardinal’s red, provided by an Italian fabric resource that supplies the Vatican.

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Roman imperial jacquard and Cardinal’s red for the show’s finale

“Not really a religious theme. I wanted a polished evening and ceremonial interpretation of menswear. And I liked the ecclesiastical idea, as the fabrics were serious and dry and cold. And we are in a Catholic institution which is a link with Balenciaga himself, since he was a very religious person,” explained the Georgian-born designer, who was raised in the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Precisely because Demna’s whole aesthetic is build around daring proportions he looks like being an ideal choice at Balenciaga, where cut and line were always the key leitmotif of the legendary Spanish designer.

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High-heeled boots and exaggerated shoulders

Demna’s predecessor at Balenciaga, Alexander Wang, built a decent accessories business. But Wang’s attempt to fuse American sportswear with French couture was ultimately a flop. Gvasalia seems poised to create something important at Balenciaga, which makes one think that the human resources department at Kering is not slouchy after all.

To sum up, Gvasalia Balenciaga debut was a real and true fashion moment.