"I'm exploring new territory, within the references of the house," said Nicolas Ghesquière before the show. "I've done prints before, but I never went to the flowers." So this was Balenciaga in full bloom: a splashy riot of hypergorgeous hydrangeas, pansies, peonies, daffodils, and anemonessome of them Cristobal's ownbut compressed into another of Ghesquière's short-sharp revolutionary essays in couture technique.
The shapes, with their standout shoulder lines, hand-span waists, and belled (almost panniered) hip volume, marched in on vertiginous knee-high woven-leather gladiator boots. "Instead of a put-together thing like last season, I wanted total looksensembles, as we say in French," Ghesquière explained, "with graphic volumes like car bodywork. Sports cars!" Each look came with its undulating folds sutured together with curvilinear topstitching, the sculptural surfaces backed with sports-derived foam, and the hems sliced short by a high-tech ultrasound machine. There were dresses and matching "ensembles" articulated as jackets over mini-pelmets, over tiny shorts.
But would this be wearable? What a silly question. If Ghesquière's extreme embroidered "robot" leggings can sell out for squillions of dollars apiece, and last season's jodhpurs, blazers, scarves, and ikat prints can fuel a global industry of knockoffs, what has he left to prove? By the time you read this, the flower-printing mills of the world will have been activated overnight. Even when Ghesquière turns to intensely rich, rarified "explorations" of detailcheck the cloisonné bejeweled heels of those bootsthere is something so relevant in the execution that it is capable of turning on the fashion fanatics to whom price is no object, while also sending the mass market into overdrive. In that way, Nicolas Ghesquière is one of the very few who can have his cake, sell it, and sit back and watch the rest of the market scramble for the crumbs.