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.