The Choice – Balenciaga AW20

A few days ago I asked you on my Instagram stories to pick one of your favourite collections ever and I would make a collage with it. Here’s @queenclassics’ choice: Demna Gvasalia‘s apocalyptic autumn-winter 2020 collection for Balenciaga. You can have a look back at it in my review right here. This line-up still feels out-of-this-world (but at the same time, so, so real…).

More of your choices are coming in the following days! If you missed the game, you can still write me your favourite collection and I will do the work. Got plenty of time. Culture isn’t cancelled, fashion isn’t cancelled!

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Balenciaga on Avenue Montaigne

The spacious Balenciaga store on Avenue Montaigne has the most fantastic, jaw-dropping, oh, iconic dresses of the season. Yes, those spring-summer 2020 dresses by Demna Gvasalia that stole the entire Paris fashion week spotlight back in October. They really are modern-day couture. The stunning, crinoline dresses (the ones in candy wrap lurex with a huge bow on the back and the three velvet masterpieces in different colours). “Ballroom dresses go back to the beginning of Balenciaga, when Cristóbal started in Spain. It was mostly this type of silhouette he did, from Spanish painting,” Gvasalia observed. “But we wanted to make sure they were wearable. They surely are. And yes, they really make an entrance.

57 Avenue Montaigne

Collage and photos by Edward Kanarecki.

(P.S. If you are inspired by my Parisian coverage, I’m really happy about, but please have in mind that now isn’t a safe time for any sorts of travelling. Stay at home!)

Apocalyptic. Balenciaga AW20

No other show in Paris left such a vivid expression as Balenciaga. You still keep on thinking about this collection (which already means something…). The audience entered the darkened Balenciaga venue and suddenly realized that the first two rows were inundated with water. It was a chilly setting for Demna Gvasalia‘s procession of sinister characters, walking on a vast stretch of water beneath an apocalyptic, digital sky filled with fire, lightning and Hitchcockian birds. “It’s the blackest show I ever did,” the designer said. Gvasalia’s route is always freighted with social observation on the state of the world, power politics, dress codes, fetishism. His intense parade of priests and priestesses in long black robes, with their “religious purity, minimalism, austerity” arose from memories of the Orthodox church in Georgia, and looking at the Spanish Catholic origins of Cristóbal Balenciaga. “He made his first dresses from black velvet, for a Marquesa to wear to church,” Gvasalia concluded. “I had a lot of clerical wear in my research. I come from a country where the Orthodox religion has been so predominant,” he said. “I went to church to confess every Saturday. Back then, I remember looking at all these young priests and monks, wearing these long robes and thinking, ‘How beautiful.’ You see them around Europe with their beards, hair knotted back and backpacks. I don’t know, I find it quite hot – but that’s my fetish.” On closer inspection, they were wearing demonic red or black contact lenses; their faces brutally augmented with protheses. “Religious dress codes are all about hiding the body, about being ashamed – body and sex is the taboo. Whereas when you look into it, some of these people are the nastiest perverts”. Holding that thought – about constraint, rules and belonging to sects – set him off, designing neoprene suits with tiny compressed waists for women and black leather “Pantaboots” with padlocked “chastity belts” and a whole series of leather biker suits. This collection is in a way painful to look at, but that is its real power. On the other note, I think Demna is the only person in fashion who really pushes the topic of silhouette and form, creating some of the most transformative garments. I can’t wait for his debut haute couture show coming this July.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The 2010s: Vetements!

Believe it or not – I can’t! – but we’re heading towards a new millenium. So, how do you choose the most important collections, designers and labels of the decade? The ones that made an actual impact in the 2010s? Well, it’s not an easy task. It all began in September 2009 with New York’s spring-summer 2010 shows and ended when the autumn-winter 2019 haute couture shows wrapped in Paris. Few thousands of shows, by the way. There will be 19 posts (that’s really the only possible minimum!) reminding about the best – and if not the best, then strongly influencing – moments in fashion.

The phenomenon of Vetements.

Vetements. It sparks controversy, instant love (or hate), causes confusion and discomfort, makes you question fashion (and laugh at it!), it polarises its viewers… one thing’s sure, Vetements, in its six years of existence, never left a mild, plain impression. While the future of the label is quite unknown – the head of its design collective, Demna Gvasalia, parted ways with label to focus on Balenciaga – the body of work it has left in the latter half of the 2010s still surprises. From the „collaboration” collection (which featured tracksuits made in co-operation with Juicy Couture, tailoring done with Brioni or satin shoes created with Manolo Blahnik) to that one line-up that nodded to the history and the modern day state of Georgia (Gvasalia’s homeland), Vetements always focused on such un-fashion topics like politics or life in general (the autumn-winter 2019 had a word or two regarding our increasingly violent, voyeuristic and isolating society). Other memorable Vetements highlights? The infamous DHL t-shirt. That time when they showed in a sex club or in the cheesiest Chinese restaurant in the entire Paris (speaking of Vetements and food, they showed their SS20 in the most Vetements place ever – McDonald’s). And of course, you just can’t ignore the fact that Vetements changed fashion in the 2010s: over-sized hoodies, trashy looks, cowboys boots, post-Soviet aesthetic, second-wave obsession with Margiela – all that went (super) mainstream thanks to the label’s impact. Will it still affect (and disturb) fashion in the 2020s? Who knows.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

The Statements Pieces. Balenciaga Resort 2020

Balenciaga released its resort 2020 look-book just in time when the clothes start to hit the stores. Demna Gvasalia‘s pre-collections for the maison aren’t as spectacular as the main shows (the spring-summer 2020 collection we’ve seen last month was one of his best to date!), but they sum up the label’s statement pieces: Balenciaga wardrobe “basics” (like tailoring with Cristobal Balenciaga’s couture volumes), the best-selling apparel and key bags. What else? Outsize parkas with their cheekbone-grazing collars, easy-wearing printed tea dresses in souvenir prints, XXL pajama sets… all this in the least matching colours you can imagine. But somehow, everything works together more than well. The look-book-opening coat is stamped with the Balenciaga logo in the familiar block print, but even without it one can identify the sloping shoulders, buttoned collar, and boxy, exaggerated fit as signature Gvasalia. And what’s my personal favourite from the line-up? The leather blouson-jacket in bold green, as pictured above.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Fashion Uniforms. Balenciaga SS20

Balenciaga‘s spring-summer 2020 collection was really something. It’s quite clear that since Demna Gvasalia departed from Vetements, his focus is solely directed on the Parisian maison. For me, his latest line-up was as incredible as his debut collection – it proved again that his take on ready-to-wear is truly visionary. The collection was raw, properly odd, ironic and real (all the models come from different walks of life: there were nurses, actresses, super-models, lawyers, gallerists, engineers, etc.). But so, so desirable! Lets start from the beginning. He set the collection in a political arena – a faux “Balenciaga parliament or assembly,” which he’d convened to investigate the subject of “power dressing and fashion uniforms.” First looks: senior delegates in corporate tailoring. On their breast pockets were embroidered badges, two discs bisected with a Balenciaga logo (very Mastercard). Then came what Gvasalia called ‘the campaign dresses’. “We looked at pictures of women politicians, of what they wear campaigning. We took this type of tailored daywear dress and tried to make it cool – not an easy challenge, to be honest,” he said. His solution was to “make them more boxy and cocoon-y, which is quite Balenciaga. So many body types can wear it. Democratic and easy-to-wear volumes.” Later, he sent down a line-up of over-sized, turtleneck frocks in logos, perfume bottles and sneakers prints, and long-sleeved t-shirts with cliche slogans you see in cheesy gift shops (like ’18+’ or ‘Top Model\). In his latest interview with Jo Ellison for How To Spend It, he told the critic that not doing simple, commercial stuff is simply not honest at a brand like Balenciaga. And he’s right. Next: turtle duvet jackets (their construction is amazing – it’s modern day Cristóbal Balenciaga sort of thinking); hybrid, velvet garments that in front look like dresses, but in the back appear to have pants; coats, in faux fur or bold colours, with exaggerated shoulders; XXL, black, widow dresses (worn by Nadja Auermann and Renata Litvinova). If it couldn’t get any more eclectic, here’s the best part. The eveningwear, which instantly became the most memorable / meme moment of Paris Fashion Week. Specifically, crinoline dresses (two in lurex and with a huge, doll-like bow in the back, and three identical velvet masterpieces in different colours). “Ballroom dresses go back to the beginning of Balenciaga, when Cristóbal started in Spain. It was mostly this type of silhouette he did, from Spanish painting,” Gvasalia observed. “But we wanted to make sure they were wearable. If you take out the crinoline, you have a sort of goth dress.” True, there’s something that makes you feel uncomfortable while looking at the collection: maybe it’s the extreme blue of the venue? The prosthetics used as part of models’ make-up? The chilling soundtrack created by Demna’s boyfriend, Loik Gomez? Still, I can’t help but love it. Good fashion makes you want something for a moment. Great fashion makes you feel something and think about it for a couple of days.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

McDonald’s. Vetements SS20

Slajd2-kopia

As  I’m still digesting Vetements‘ spring-summer 2020 collection, which was presented at the largest McDonald’s location in Paris… so here is a sequence of thoughts and impressions I had.

Eew. From the opening policeman look to the idea of McDonald’s… just eew.

But then, where else would Vetements show its collection? Perfectly provocating, but as simple as that.

It’s straightforwardly genius.

However, the looks… it seems to me that Demna Gvasalia and his team do the same thing for the last few seasons, on repeat. Vetements signatures they have already shown us.

Right now I’m catching myself on this endless desire of newness in fashion, something that Vetements is totally against. They are against the current, against the system, against the fashion industry. Against junk fashion. How ironic…

Also, how brilliant is the idea of dresses made out of unused Vetements textiles from previous seasons? They won’t end up in the landfill!

So I start to kind of like it. After a month of countless shows (which aren’t even ready-to-wear lines!), Demna shows the fashion establishment a middle finger.

And then, the last thought. So if Vetements hates fashion… how long can they stay in this circuit? And at the same time supply stores, earn money, etc.?

Or is this just for the sole purpose of real, fashion fun? Honestly, this will be one of the only shows that will stay in your mind for the next months.

So, as you can see, many questions. Maybe you’ve got some thoughts? Would love to hear them!

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.