All the talk this season is about the rivalry heating up between the new
guys at Dior and YSL, Raf Simons and Hedi Slimane. But don't count
Nicolas Ghesquière out. This is a man who, if he didn't invent the heritage
brand reinvention, has certainly mastered the art. And his fantastic new
Balenciaga collection was a case study in how he's done it season in and
season out for the last decade, by putting an utterly modern gloss on
intense study of the house's archives.
Skin was the big news here, and with it more than a whiff of sex.
Sometimes a Balenciaga show can be head-scratchingly tough to parse; this
one was thrilling in the way it just left you hot. Beforehand, Ghesquière
said, "It's the most sensual collection I've ever done," then proceeded
to rattle off a string of references that prove it was every inch as
thoroughly researched as his more conceptual outings: the mythology of
antiquity, stiff ruffles from a Cristobal dress circa 1968, a nymph and
faun window display Janine Janet made for the store's windows in '57. The
fabrics were as bleeding edge as ever, too: tweeds that weren't tweeds but
dense embroideries, delicate lace fused to molded synthetics, and T-shirt
knits dipped in glue for stiffness.
Still, what gripped you was the cut—the way Ghesquière merged things that
were quite graphic with movement. He set the provocative tone with the
first model's midriff-baring molded bra and high-waisted pants. And from
there, he came out swinging, slitting long black skirts almost to the
hipbone and edging them with deep ruffles, the undersides of which were
white. The ruffles nearly pulsed as the models strutted down the narrow
aisles, in sharp contrast to the crisp cropped cape tops and T-shirts.
Asymmetric, almost togalike skirts, so abbreviated they required shorts
underneath, pushed the leggy theme further, and even Ghesquière's
sensible pantsuits (more office-appropriate than anything in last
season's office collection, ironically) were paired with those daring bra
As the show continued, Ghesquiere's preoccupations shifted from the macro
to the micro. To close, he sent out a series of little dresses in coated
guipure lace that coded sweet as much as sexy. They had his front-row
guest Kristen Stewart's name written all over them.
Simons debuts his Dior ready-to-wear tomorrow and Slimane his for Saint
Laurent next week. What Ghesquière did today was a reminder to us all
that Paris fashion isn't a two-man game.