Balenciaga: lavish and LED-driven
Rarely has a fashion show featured such an outstanding set; a mind-blowing digital vortex developed by artist Jon Rafman, whom Balenciaga's creative director Demna Gvasalia met at the Basel Art Fair.
A truly amazing visual maelstrom, where the audience of 400 walked into a rectangular tube made entirely of 2,000 square meters of curving LED screens. Pre-show, massive images of raindrops on windows, which then exploded into volcanic molasses; churning waves; balls of fire; melting celluloid and digital ticker tapes as the show kicked off.
Outside, a sunny Sunday in northern suburb St Denis: inside the audience almost freezing, as the air conditioning was turned way, way down to prevent the LEDs overheating.
This would all have meant nothing if the collection was prosaic,. Instead it was probably Gvasalia's most coherent and glamorous collection for the house.
His opening look set the scene, a perfectly cut pinstripe coat-dress, nipped at the waist like a chess piece and finished with exactly flat, right-angle shoulders. He showed this silhouette in sleek leather, powder blue wool and electric cerulean technical velvet. Balenciaga will always be about volume; and Demna played with some remarkable shapes, many bearing the brand name in black and white stiff labels that stood up vertically on one shoulder.
“I call it Neo, or New Tailoring in dress making: rigid and stiff and square shoulders. Almost like little sofas that you could sit on,” beamed the Georgian-born designer.
In a co-ed show he sent out over a score of men's looks, worn, like his womenswear, on a “casting sauvage” culled from Korea, France, Germany and even Scotland.
Somewhat curiously for a gent who escaped a homeland overrun by irredentist communists, Demna also showed several Mao-shaped suits, albeit cut with novel fluidity. Moreover, he also used lots of liquid velvet in lightly billowing pants and shirt jackets. Other silhouettes recalled exaggerated raglans from the '60s; while a new men's suit dispensed with the shirt as it was transformed into a jacket.
“No shoulder padding or epaulettes. That takes away the obligations of a classic suit. I want to dress the new generation and make them wear tailoring again. So this feels like wearing a jogging suit, and is more approachable and not like Bond Street and Savile Row. That for me is essential,” argued Demna.
A striking collection and a brilliant show, where Rafman and Gvasalia collaborated by dreaming up “a digital movie set.” Not in tandem, but by talking and brain storming, and allowing fashion to fashion a new vision of art and the digital simulacrum.
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