Balenciaga's First Ever Men's Runway Show at Paris Menswear SS17

Demna Gvasalia has done nothing but dig deep into the archives of one of the most famous houses in fashion, since he was appointed as Creative Director in October of last year. Archives so present in his first womenswear collection for the house earlier this year and strangely in this one, given that Cristóbal Balenciaga never done menswear himself per se. This season however all started, when traipsing through the rails and rails of history, Gvasalia found a coat. But not just any old coat, it was Cristóbal's own, made by his own hands. He never finished it. So, Demna Gvasalia being the considerate new heir to the Balenciaga house that he is, finished the coat and opened his show with it. The Georgian-born designer explored the idea of tailoring as the male equivalent of haute couture. "With the womenswear we worked with constructing the attitude," Gvasalia explained. "With menswear it's more about the shape."

Suiting was the collection's dominant theme that ran throughout, whether oversized, shrunken or cropped, they were incredible. With the designer wanting to "(bring) classic tailoring as we know it out of it's usual frame." A status symbol reference to 80's power dressing acting against the super-skinny 60's masculinity of Mr. Fish's closely cut velvet. As always with Demna, normality in clothes are always given a fresh breath of life, they're edgy with a heightened sense of fantasy, but not forgetting they never lose their role as just clothes. They're always wearable and that's something Demna has brought along with him from his cult collective Vetements. The notecards that simply read "Balenciaga" and placed in models' breast pockets were a reference to the measurement cards of bespoke suit-makers like him, in what Gvasalia called "a little wink to the idea of where tailoring comes form, the perfection of tailoring that I wanted to break with this collection." It was a really beautiful detail and gesture. Still, unlike Alessandro Michele's Gucci for instance, nothing felt retro or dated, it was one-hundred percent contemporary. Pieces were worn with bare knees, cropped shirts and Vetements-worthy platform boots. "I wanted the styling to actually be cool and not classic and uptight," Gvasalia mentioned afterwards. That is of course by the help of friend and stylist Lotta Volkova (the stylist to his Vetements collections) and the fact that they are indeed close friends, the work they do seamlessly together is in fact genuine, because of that. The garments themselves were just as strong as the attitude. The attitude that Gvasalia described as uniting the men's and womenswear sides of his vision for Balenciaga. "For women, it's an idea of strong, elegant, modern woman, that really steps very hard when she walks. This one is not so much about elegance, it's more about the polish - he's very polished, his shoes are shiny! But he steps the same way she does when he walks." Although the collection like I said was suit-heavy, there were some super commercial yet fabulous pieces that had the trickle-down effect that will most definitely sell. "I wanted a feel of formality, of perfection, to everything." Sharp shoulders were translated into an everyday wardrobe, via the Harrington or MA-1 bomber jackets. Not forgetting the accessories, seen through his lust for Americana, pervert-worthy trucker caps were embroidered with the word Balenciaga and those huge IKEA bags that fit absolutely everything in (usually available in primary blue and yellow) were also featured in the show. Just don't expect to pay twenty-pence though, or forty-pence for the bigger size. Glam rocker boots will also sell out instantaneously, I particularly loved the snakeskin ones.

Suited yuppies meets The Matrix, via the Vatican
Models that represent the "perfect" Gvasalia boy are an important aspect to his collections. This season they were found by Eva Gödel, the founder of German-based modelling agency Tomorrow is Another Day. Apart from the odd few (including Vetements muse Paul Hameline), all the boys were making their runway debut. "They should all be really unique but still fit like a gang, like a force," Gödel revealed of her brief. "They must be strong characters - and in these outfits, with the shoes, you have to have a strong attitude." Although I do find what Demna Gvasalia does with Vetements and what he has done so far at Balenciaga cool, exciting and exclusive - yet open to interpretation, there is no doubt that diversity is a underlying problem for him at both Vetements and Balenciaga. I agree with him on that using one black model just to simply tick a box isn't acceptable, here he had two, but what's stopping him from using ten black models for arguments sake? This idea that they cast models solely based on and including their friends and the people they're surrounded by, is the reason behind their shows being so predominantly white. That might have been ok for his first couple of seasons with Vetements, but it's simply getting old now and that alone isn't acceptable for both Vetements and especially Balenciaga.









Images courtesy of NowFashion, i-D and Vogue Runway

The Wolf of High Street


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