Friday, August 19, 2016

Balenciaga // Spring 2017 // Menswear

There has never been a formal Balenciaga menswear presentation. Under all previous creative directors, there was rarely even imagery shared with the public via Vogue or NowFashion. Demna Gvasalia arrived at the house at the beginning of this year and the label announced their first menswear show. When June rolled around, talk was fraught with anticipation for his debut.

On a Wednesday in late June sunshine burst through the glass ceilings at the Lycée Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague. Under the sun, a new chapter of Balenciaga menswear was welcomed. The starting point was a coat Gvasalia stumbled upon while perusing the expansive Balenciaga archives. The unfinished item was the product of, the founder, Cristobal Balenciaga’s hands. He completed his predecessor’s work and it opened the show. The camel-coloured, boxy-coat kickstarted his Balenciaga menswear reign memorably.

The male counterpart to haute couture is bespoke tailoring and Gvasalia wanted to explore that with this collection. The blazers had quarterback, boxy shoulders. They were ill-fitting and a necessary departure from the dull suits that used to—and still appear to—dominate men’s fashion weeks. Shirts were crisp and neatly buttoned to the neck, blazers fastened officiously. In the breast pocket of each jacket was a Balenciaga-stamped card which kept the measurements of the garment. On face value it appeared as a business card at the ready. Shoulders either extended normal width or else they looked shrunken, visually minimising the width of the shoulder. Trousers were cropped below the knee or kept Oliver Twist length. Double-breasted, single-breasted, these were wildly different from the classic and necessary wardrobe staple. 
The Vetements attitude permeated this Balenciaga collection. Under Gvasalia he’s ushered in “extreme normality”—a trend I’ll dissect further in the coming weeks. Suits, shirts and trousers are everyday items for men—just like hoodies and sweaters are, as seen at the Vetements show—but it’s how you remix them. Widening or shrinking proportions, shortening or lengthening hemlines, it sounds almost trivial but there is a burning desire for clothes like these. At the showroom many press and buyers asserted the comfort and appeal of the pieces. But with these clothes you don’t just buy a pair of trousers or a bomber jacket, the Gvasalia-prescribed attitude is attached.

The grumpy-looking models looked the part as malcontented businessmen on their morning commute, not gawky teen models (who were mostly white; although it was a meek improvement upon his Vetements catastrophe casting). They quickly inform the robotic ‘men in the grey suits’ from The Matrix franchise. There were whiffs of the iconic film in the collection were spotted by astute, comedic fashion writers who likened bespectacled models to the nefarious Agent Smith and his cohorts. That movie was released in 1999 and as with every Demna/Lotta collaboration there was a distinct 90s mood in the air. The nineties have well and truly been revived.

I’ve had issues with Demna Gvasalia’s oeuvre in the past. I disagree with the questionable motives; the incongruity of what he believes and wants Vetements to be and what it actually is; the borderline anti-fashion approach; the pushing of stuff. This Balenciaga collection didn’t change that, but the aesthetic being pushed here is more palatable despite the unerring loftiness and chilliness. Also to be valued is the aversion to traditional suiting. A fine start from Gvasalia at Balenciaga menswear. 
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