The dichotomy of our world (not to say its absurdity) has ceased to surprise me for some time now. We are experiencing troubled times when people should unite & fight together instead of feeling this constant need to point out the differences between genders, rich & poor, heterosexual & anything else. This is exhausting to be honest and so pointless. Fashion is not a world apart when it comes to dichotomous behaviors. Fashion people are craving for luxury goods, for unique things, for quality & savoir-faire but at the same time, they are obsessed with Demna Gvasalia & his streetwear/trash/scandalous/low & profane but nonetheless luxury aesthetics. Vetements is literally on everybody's lips nowadays and you can trace its influence everywhere from fast-fashion labels to high-end brands, from catwalks to streets! With Balenciaga, the concept is approximately the same; perhaps with a more accurate attention to details, shapes, cuts, fabrics. The heavy legacy left by Cristobal Balenciaga cannot be put aside but of course, Demna & his team have adapted it so it can stick to their own codes. Honestly, I don't really know if what they are producing is really Balenciaga in every aspect. Collection after collection, they are slapping me right in the face and I need some time to know if I love what I've seen. What I know for sure is that it has never left me indifferent and this feeling is priceless when I'm talking about Fashion.
After a day questioning myself, I can now tell you that I really like the latest Balenciaga collection for Autumn Winter 2017/18. Once again, it has disturbed me, puzzled me, left me with a hundred interrogations but my general feeling is more than positive. A collection about dichotomies, about two worlds colliding tells a lot about the state of our world. The starting point of this collection is according to Demna Gvasalia the moving of he & his creative team in the Kering headquarters. One can imagine the culture shock, the encounter of the third kind between the free-spirited (sometimes too free-spirited?) Vetements/Balenciaga team & the corporate world of Kering with its all spruced up businessmen. The result is a collection filled with formal wear à la sauce Demna (floor-length coats, very large shoulders, oversized double-breasted jackets & loose pants with a deep 80s feel) and streetwear elements (huge sneakers, windbreakers, hoodies, logos, bomber jackets, check shirts, all the elements of a modern young man's wardrobe). Look closer and you'll see that every model could stand for a certain type of people one could expect to find in such a big corporation;
THE VICE PRESIDENTS
(and CEO's sons... something quite fashionable these days...)
THE MARKETING DIRECTOR
& his innate "sense of fashion"
THE MARKETING TEAM
composed of cool, young guys
I think this particular one wants to take his boss's place...
bitchy & so self-confident
austere & sad just like every accountant actually
who still don't know how to dress for work
Actually they don't give a F...
THE DELIVERY MEN
They are not here to smile
Just to be fast & deliver things
THE ONE WHO LOVES HIS CORPORATION SO VERY MUCH
That he's wearing a hoodie with its name on it...
A bit of a weirdo to be honest
AND THE ONE WHO EVEN WORKS ON SUNDAYS
So he's mixing his pyjamas with a shirt & tie...
After these pictures, I think the clash, the "two worlds colliding" thing is quite obvious. Models are wearing motorcycle boots with BALENCIAGA written on them along with their suits or heavy sneakers that could make the Raf Simons X Adidas pumps look like ballet flats. Backstage, the designer explained his intentions by saying that he & his team "wanted to take away the rigidity and coldness of corporate suits" and the best way was to add street elements or things you don't expect in a businessman's attire. The puffa jackets for instance (here in multiple shapes; sleeveless, long...) or the large padded scarf/survival blanket printed with the word Balenciaga on it, using the font of Bernie Sanders' campaign for Democratic nomination. This particular thing is not trivial too! By referring to the one who wanted to talk to each and everybody (not just the wealthier), the "people's candidate", Demna Gvasalia is completely counterbalancing what could be seen as an intriguing & quite weird ode to corporations.
Qualifying Demna Gvasalia as "Designer of the Real" might seem a bit too much if you consider the price of his creations but nowadays, he is the one who succeeds in catching & transcending the essence of our times. And after all, this Kering logo might appear as completely odd but Kering is something real (never forget the Vetements DHL logo tees!) This is at the same time a tribute to the company that has given him this huge opportunity and a brat's middle finger. This AW17 collection can be seen as the symbol of a Trump Vs Sanders moral fight; the rigid/codified/cold world of corporations Vs a warmer & more human approach.
Two years ago, we were far from imagining that Balenciaga would endure such a transformation, such a transfiguration! There was a halo of mystery & prestige surrounding it. For me, it was perhaps the epitome of luxury (even more than Hermès or Chanel). Something has changed. The mystery has perhaps vanished a bit but there is still something deeply fascinating & intriguing. Nowadays, the Balenciaga logo is everywhere (on boots, coats, bags, hoodies...) in different shapes, sizes, fonts. That's the way our world is going. Some may find it deeply disappointing, I'm finding it completely exciting!
Words by Charles Margueritte