Suits are growing into an important part of the Balenciaga oeuvre. The collection had been sporty as shin guards for seasons, but the reintroduction of traditional suiting to its racks last Spring seems to have set Nicolas Ghesquière and his design team on a new course. Now they've got tailoring in mind, though not necessarily the kind you'd find on an office drone. Picking up where the women's pre-fall collection began, Ghesquière was thinking of the late seventies and early eighties. John Lurie became the guiding spirit. Lurie and his Lounge Lizards loved a suit, and if Balenciaga's are stricter, straighter, and tighter than the sacks they used to favor, most would count that an advantage. They're definitely not drone-ish in colors like brick red and wine stain. Neither are the Chelsea boots, in oxidized silver python and bright white leather.
The dialogue between menswear and womenswear at the house has been going on for a few seasons. Here you saw it clearly—literally, too, if you caught the men's looks that Ghesquière previewed when he showed pre-fall in New York earlier this month. But there were correlations in shape and style as well. A padded jacket, modeled in part after a jockey's jacket, picked up the spongy styles seen on the Spring '12 womenswear runway. As extreme as they seemed then, they seemed even more so now. More immediately accessible was the selection of leather moto jackets. They're a first for men, but have been a staple of the women's collection for some time.
With the new emphasis on suiting, and possible plans in the works to begin developing men's essentials, fans might fear the label is losing is edge or its art. Not so. A formal trouser had a tux stripe blown up to such maximal thickness it resembled an evening track pant. There's edge. Here's art: What looked like a printed T-shirt with a multicolored Balenciaga B turned out to be a heat-bonded patchwork collage. A gimmick, but a fairly fabulous one—the logo tee as bas-relief.