Its kind of difficult to believe that Demna Gvasalia took the creative reins at Balenciaga more than two years ago. Time flies, I guess — but at the same time, it feels like the Georgia-born, Switzerland-based designer has been churning out his couture spandex and tricked-out dad wares for the French house for centuries now, its influence having already crept into most nooks and crannies of the design world.
In those two-ish years, Balenciaga has been, objectively, very good. Not only has it been both aesthetically interesting and eye-catching, but its also helped to make its owner and operator Kering a whole boatload of cash. But even so, Gvasalias Balenciaga hasnt been for everyone, especially those within the industry who might prefer to see Cristóbal Balenciagas original house codes — rounded dresses in classic fabrications like embroidery and lace — represented a bit more literally.
Balenciagas Fall 2018 collection, presented on Sunday morning in Paris, catered a little bit more to the latter, or at least, to a more dialed-down version than it has been in the past. This time, Gvasalias artistry and construction really took center stage: The show opened with a series of sharp mini-dresses — some in crushed velvet, others in what appeared to floral-patterned silk — as well as wrap-dresses that called glitzy figure skating garb to mind.
The image of Gvasalia parked on a couch somewhere while fully engrossed in Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weirs on-air antics is one I plan to store in my memory bank for bluer days. That gave way to the just-perfectly-exaggerated hourglass silhouettes, in which coats, suit jackets and heavy blazers marched out in en vogue patterns like plaid, houndstooth and check, the likes of which have “faithful Net-a-Porter shopper” written all over.
Then, there were the graphic, oversize hoodies and tees — a Gvasalia specialty — though this season, the pieces came with a charitable twist: Many of the cotton styles bore the the World Food Program logo, an organization for which Balenciaga has already donated 250,000 euros, as well as pledged “10 percent from every Fall 2018 item sold,” in addition.
There were, of course, no shortage of the familiar Gvasalia touches, like over-the-knee heeled sock boots, clompy new “gorpcore” sneakers and even teensier, “The Matrix”-friendly sunglasses to transport wearers into another dimension. Various slim-fitting turtlenecks fused sleeves with gloves, a variation on something that might be more commonly seen at a European nightclub.
Finally, the runway lineup wrapped up with a layering bonanza that wouldve made Joey Tribbiani proud, with ridiculous combinations like turtleneck-underneath-sweatshirt-underneath-grungy flannel-underneath-pod-like parka. The set, too, had a certain streetwear edge: Models walked before a giant, spray-painted snowboarding hill, a cool-enough seasonal option for Balenciagas hippest shoppers.
All 74 looks were, undoubtedly, Gvasalias Balenciaga with all the fun that comes with it, but this time, the clothes, and none of the gimmicks, were the real takeaway.