It was the most anticipated show of Fashion Week
Since Demna Gvasalia’s appointment as artistic director in October 2015, and following his fearless debut A/W 16 show, a fierce anticipation once again surrounds the design house. The Georgian designer has brought back the core elements of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s tailored aesthetic whilst simultaneously appropriating it for a new era. Whilst the volumous skirts and angular blazers clearly echoed Cristóbal’s early architectural creations, it was the stirup legged trousers and structured oversized anoraks whose decidedly sporty feel highlighted Gvasalia’s ability to adapt the elegance of the Balenciaga aesthetic with his own modern day deconstruction.
It’s a symbol of modern innovation
In the mid-twentieth century, Cristóbal Balenciaga was a key pioneer, accredited with introducing a new female silhouette that provided an alternative to the classic hourglass shape. He laid the tailored foundations for a more modern, architectural style, creating volumous shapes through specifically draped fabric.
His arechetypal designs included the high-waisted babydoll dress, the cocoon coat and the balloon skirt. Christian Dior described Balenciaga as ‘the master of us all’ whilst Coco Chanel regarded him as ‘a couturier in the truest sense of the word’. His groundbreaking contribution to fashion has been documented in the Game Changers - Reinventing the Silhouette of the 20th Century Exhibition, now showing in Momu, Antwerp.
It’s retained a global appeal
Behind the continuing success of Balenciaga lies a host of creators who have been able to mix deliberate design choices with a commerical desirability, in a single word: adaptable. When the then 25 year old Nicolas Ghesquière took over the reins in 1997, it was to rapturous praise that sparked an almost obsessive following throughout the 2000’s. Known for his use of contrast, he very quickly re-established Balenciaga as a critically aclaimed fashion house. He introduced one of the first it-bags, the Classic First a piece that is still in demand today and epitomizes the global reach of Balenciaga’s appeal. Although Alexander Wang’s loose, slouchy designs are widely acknowledged to have diluted the brand’s core aesthetic, to his credit Balenciaga’s turnover rose sharply during his 3 years.
In the same way that Cristóbal Balenciaga had the foresight to transform the dresses of the Spanish royal court into modern couture pieces, his successors have been able to create contemporary designs that have perpetuated and mainatined a universal regard. The brilliance of Balenciaga is a balance between structure and design, something very classic and yet entirely modern.