"I was thinking of robotic articulation. Car parts. Droids. A boyish silhouette " said Nicolas Ghesquière before he was dragged off to sort out a last-minute glitch. Moments later, his incredible futuristic vision was out of the gate: elongated black jackets with a double-layered shoulder line; cyber-goddess dresses jigsawed from patent leather; space-crew shirts with high white collars. Within seconds, the message in these refined, precision-judged looks was sending chills through an audience that five minutes earlier had been on the point of meltdown from heat. Was it worth the wait? Without a doubt. Like last season's Balenciaga retrospective triumph, this is a collection that will reset the fashion agenda, but in a different way.
Ghesquière said he'd been watching The Terminator, and 1982's Tron, the first blockbuster to combine computer animation with real actors, but that's by-the-by. What's special about these clothes is the way the designer brings his distinctively Parisian, perfectionist genius for cut and exceptional fabric into the consciousness of high-tech culture. It's not one monolithic look, easily captured in a comic-strip subtitle. Ghesquière's intense shows work through a half-dozen separate ideas linked in sequence. This time he moved from tailoring to shiny "nylon" silk-swathed dresses, to patent-edged shirtdresses, heavily-hewn sculpted leather and crocodile, metallic pantsuits, and finally to the coup de grâce: astonishing combinations of drapey silk-print tunics and gleaming bronze or gold metal robot-leggings, embroidered with futuristic paillettes.
If last season's vastly influential Balenciaga collection looked back, this one projects forward into a new era for the house Ghesquière is fast defining as his own. There is no sense of a lurch, because these ideas of space-age fantasy have always been on a slow burn in his workalong with the attenuated line and his deftness with technique. With this collection, he leapt ahead. It's true that thoughts of space-age robo-women have been circulating already this season, as well as reminders that the likes of Thierry Mugler and Jean Paul Gaultier went there in the eighties, but it takes a major talent like Nicolas Ghesquière to turn a literal reference into something that is light years from pastiche.