A new creative director—Monsieur Alexander Wang, américain—may be in the house, but Balenciaga menswear's ongoing quest to be seen and not heard continues apace. The label promises that, as before, there will be no show, and Wang offered no comment on the first collection for men he has overseen since his appointment in 2012. The Balenciaga offering for men continues to be less fashion than garde-robe: a working set, in other words, of untrendy essentials.
That's not to say Wang didn't put his mark on the Spring collection. One of his first moves in womenswear was to establish the maillon, a metal connector similar to a carabiner, as the sign and seal. It works as a visual pun—a literal link to a previous era of Balenciaga, tacitly Cristobal's and not Nicolas'—but it has a functional power, too. Here, it fastened wool blazers and pants. In his namesake line, Wang has shown a peculiar genius for accessories, so while many of the existing successful bags and sneakers for men continue in slightly tweaked form, new lines have been introduced as well: the Phileas collection of travel bags, named for the globe-trotting hero of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, appropriately Wangian in their streamline; and the plimsoll range called, with justice, Young.
Some innovations are entirely new—if not always entirely successful. A series of poplin shirts have high-closing, ornamental chest coverings called plastron. It's tempting to read into this the sort of chic, chilly stricture that Balenciaga under Ghesquière could be counted on to kick against. But it's only one style of many. Another Wang invention, a sleeveless shirt, has only a single button at the collar. The rest flies free—or would, if Wang didn't show it with one tail tucked.