Monday, September 30, 2019

What to wear to work in 2020. Reviewing Balenciaga, Givenchy.

People have to go to work and fashion often ignores this fact. That’s both a good thing and a bad thing. In one sense, it allows designers to push the boundaries, to germinate creative energy that can’t survive elsewhere, but on the other... people have to go to work.

On the third-last day of Paris Fashion Week, in a cobalt room designed to resemble the European Parliament, Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia was thinking about the world of work.
‘Models of various career tracks interpret and play on beauty standards of today, the past, the future,’ read the notes.
Balenciaga Vogue Runway

There was Neda Brady, an architect, in an unstructured uniform with embroidered business logos and removable whalebones at the shoulders, accessories with a VIP pass necklace. (This continued for four or five looks, on a law student, an entrepreneur, and private equity associate.) There was Tatiana Katysheva, an artist, in a matching floral print twisted top and skirt. There was Moritz Ley, CFO, in a stonewashed coat over a black viscose turtleneck and baggy blue jeans.

In the blink of an eye, the banal was elevated to a pedestal. Mundanity, front and centre at one of the most-watched shows at Paris Fashion Week, looked more desirable than ever.

Gvasalia is smart. He didn’t build his collection solely around these commercially-astute decisions -- though there were plenty of those: t-shirts printed with ‘X-rated’, ‘Balenciaga’s Top Model’, and the ‘Tyrex’, the brand’s new shoe which is part-trainer, part-office shoe -- he’s more talented than just that.

He pushed the boundaries of the silhouette. He exaggerated shoulders to the umpteenth degree, creating a jarring sense of boxiness, a ‘democratic’ gesture, he said. He heightened the drama of puffer jackets as they formed protective cocoon shapes around the human body. He architected crinoline ball gowns with a Futurist spin. ‘How to make quite eccentric eveningwear wearable,’ he told FT How to Spend It editor Jo Ellison. Look at that lurex gown as it bounced along the runway, accented with a large bow—exquisite. And the crinolines were removable. The removable aspect is a good start but he has yet to reach his conclusion, this eveningwear was as extravagant as it comes. However, he’s one of the few designers searching for answers. Perhaps a ball gown to the boardroom will be possible in the next five years. Ultimately, Gvasalia will be the one to tell you if it is.
Givenchy Vogue Runway
Equally important in Paris is Clare Waight Keller, a match made in heaven for Givenchy executives. As she approaches two years with the house, she continues to renovate the house codes, oozing modernity, taking the challenges associated reinventions in her stride. She isn’t laden down with the burden of the past, she’s a forward-thinker, one of the few with maturity left in fashion. She doesn't always hit the nail on the head but she labours more than 90% of other fashion designers, it would appear.

She combed through images of Paris and New York in the mid-nineties before envisioning what the two would look like in a conversation. Imparting the 90s working woman sensibility with an air of Parisian sophisticate in the collection, she translated her dual inspirations into an affair of relaxed tailoring (a new avenue for suiting: a slim, long jacket and narrow shorts, a departure from the rigour of formal tailoring), upcycled denim (in questionable Bermuda short form), and scarf necklines and poplin sun-dresses printed with bucolic fantasies.

This season’s Givenchy vision is familiar. It has the harsh lines and architectural prowess of New York’s urban simplicity -- after all, Waight Keller joined Calvin Klein in 1993, at the height of its minimalist proclivities -- counterbalanced by the romantic warmth of Paris. Alongside floor-sweeping gowns blossoming with bold floral patterns, cloche-shaped skirts and bold balloon shoulders, blazers with denim short shorts and blouses with ripped jeans looked convincing. It modernised the Givenchy mission -- melding the urbane with the elegant.

Waight Keller’s strength is also in her ability to create a seamless dialogue between day and night, and here, also, New York and Paris, where the street and the ballroom and fractured by a day’s work in the office.

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