Now that the big four fashion weeks are over and I can get a chance to really look, I am once again moved by the work of a designer I have written about here before. Today I am drawn again to the sociological intelligence of Demna Gvasalia, this time designing as creative director for Balenciaga. I am also inspired by the commentary of and designer interview by Tim Blanks, who writes for the Business of Fashion.
When designing for Vetements Demna’s inspiration comes from the street and is always cool in an everyday way (as per models wearing bathrobes in his couture show) For Balenciaga his starting point is the corporate world (the designer now works in the corporate headquarters of a large luxury conglomerate as creative director of Balenciaga) yet he can make suits cool in a wearable way that also conveys gravitas. He is a man that moves easily back and forth between the street and the boardroom and this fluidity is part of his attraction for me. He does high/low to perfection. In this Paris show he plays with the notion of “power dressing” and women walking and standing “straight up”. He is a master of conveying ideas through the design and construction of his garments. He is always able to instigate cultural conversations without saying a word. He honors tradition yet makes us live in and question the present cultural moment.
Perhaps it is because I have been feeling an unbearable sociological vulnerability while also feeling personally empowered that the clothes in this collection drew me in. They are both protective and strong. In the show women walked tall and straight like soldiers (which the designer says we must all be now). There were shirts made of silk with backs that mimicked a bulletproof vest and skirts made of rubber matting. It was the construction and design of the clothes that gives the gentle command to your body to take on these feelings and wear (or march) them into your everyday life.
But what entranced me the most was the designer’s isolation of a repeated gesture he found while studying thirty years of Balenciaga archives. Demna functions like a very talented qualitative researcher. The gesture, repeated, was the way that a woman clutched her coat to her shoulder. A pose that conveys a feeling of vulnerability yet when portrayed in a high fashion way evidences a bit of haughtiness, a knowledge that one wields power. This gesture became transformed in this collection into a coat and jacket design where the clothes do the talking and work for you if you want to make a statement but also allow you to remain silent by the fact that the garment can be worn the traditional way if you wish. The gesture is the point of focus and rather than the fragmented feeling I got from looking at many of the other collections that moved through the cities and runways, this collection made me feel the sense of coherence that I have been needing to feel.
See what I mean. Balenciaga RTW AW2017
Did you ever own a piece of clothing that made your body move or feel a certain way?