Words by Stephen George
It was one of the most anticipated shows of the season. Since his appointment as the creative director of Balenciaga in 2015 Demna Gvasalia has moved the brand on from the marred era of Alexander Wang to creating cult pieces that appeal to all consumers.
The Triple S trainer, the Knife boot, the Speed Runner, the Bazaar bag, the logo cap, the Bombardier, the Swing jacket, the Pantashoes… the list goes on. He’s been respectful of Cristobal’s legacy and archive forever infusing his work into each collection but modernising it at the same time creating street wear pieces that drive street style photographers into a frenzy during fashion week and guarantee instant street cred.
For his Autumn/Winter 2018-19 presentation Gvasalia unified his men’s and women’s collections for the first time since being at the maison under a snow white graffiti covered mountain. The iconography and slogans that Gvasalia has shown from his first collection for Autumn/Winter 2016-17 appeared plastered all over – ‘THINK BIG’, ‘THE POWER OF DREAMS’ and ‘NO BORDERS’ alongside the gay pride flag and new season slogan ‘+33 156528799’.
Gvasalia has tapped into his customer’s buying pattern – men buy into the womenswear and vice versa. Looks like Cristobal’s iconic hourglass jacket were shown on both male and female models. Gvasalia in his research of Cristobal’s archive and noting his work with volume and innovation at the time wanted to find a way to update it for today. This translated to high tech tailoring made from a single piece of fabric bonded at two seams. The tailoring was digitally fitted until the models whose bodies were 3D scanned for a perfect fit.
Trends that were seen throughout the whole fashion month were seen during the show. Neons (as seen at Prada, Moschino and Balmain) in pinks, lime and yellows came on fuzzy coats and bags, turtlenecks, skirts and Knife boots were a nod to the 80’s.
Leopard and cheetah prints (as seen at Tom Ford, Roberto Cavalli and Victoria Beckham) appeared on shaggy coats and dresses that were knee-length at the front but cut into a leotard at the back. Multi-coloured winter floral prints (as seen at Richard Quinn, Christian Dior and Christopher Kane) on razor pleated skirts, flowing blouses, body-con and tea dresses.
The BALENCIAGA branding - the mainstay and the commercial win for the company was in full effect on a simple, deep black tote bag and a long handled black bag with repeat logo and sunglasses. A new collaboration with the World Food
; the largest humanitarian organisation fighting hunger worldwide made its debut. The charity’s logo appeared alongside the brand’s logo on bum bags, hoodies, caps, sweatshirts and knitwear with the slogan ‘SAVING LIVES, CHANGING LIVES’. 10% of the proceeds made from the sale of these items will go directly to the charity as well as the $250,000 that the brand has already donated to the charity.
For his finale Gvasalia presented a new way to wear outerwear. Jackets of various styles – bombers, blousons, nylon parkas, donkey, denim, field, fur and windbreakers were layered one on top of the other, on top of the other, on top of the other.
Although not forward thinking or ground-breaking in it’s presentation (Gvasalia showed the same styling concept in January for his Vetements Autumn/Winter 2018-19 show) this was Gvasalia flexing his commercial power; Balenciaga outerwear is hot property with customers splashing out to but a piece from that season. This was a much cleaner presentation and executed with finesse and flair. If only these jackets were available 3 days ago when Storm Emma covered the whole of Europe in snow.