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Paris

Balenciaga

Spring 2018 Ready-to-Wear

Paris

BY William Buckley

October 1, 2017

“Did you see Balenciaga?!” asked a visibly distressed editor I ran into a few hours after the show, and then, “What’s going on?!” She was sat hunched over a coffee, a coupe de champagne, and a significant slice of tarte tatin (that’s French for apple pie). I joined her, and slowly slid the half-eaten slice out of arm’s reach. She gazed up and put the fork down too. “Well done,” I said.

We talked for a while about what we’d seen. She’s more of the old school fashion editor, you see, a Boomer who’s seen subversive things like the entry of denim into high fashion, or more recently, socks with sandals. She’s seen so many trends come and go, and she told me she’s embraced all that—she looked deep into my eyes, searching—”But Crocs!?” she asked. I nodded empathetically, and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. I said, “Well, Christopher Kane’s been doing…” she cut me off. “That doesn’t matter!” People at the neighboring table looked around. I was uncomfortable, but I understood. This is Balenciaga.

Thing is, eliciting emotion like this is what Demna Gvasalia wants. And it’s working. This isn’t Cristóbal. This isn’t extrospective fashion as so much fashion is. This is deeply introspective. This is challenging our preconceived, and so often inflexible, concept of beauty. Or rather, what “ugly” is.

Yes, half the collection looked like it could have been bought at a second-hand store–“And not even a chic one!” said the unnamed editor. It’s true. Every second-hand store has a rack filled with plaid shirts, another with high-waisted mom jeans, and another with stone or camel-colored raincoats—not raincoats like the Burberry and Acquascutum you’d see at Thanx God I’m a V.I.P. (a fabulous Paris shop) and the like. This isn’t consignment. This is straight up Goodwill shit.

But that’s the point. And like all good hand-me-downs, these probably won’t fit right either. That’s the point too. Oversized puffer vests and Harrington jackets were sewn to the front of other equally “ugly” wares, and as each model walked, they reminded me of some young protagonist in a Roald Dahl-type novel, put upon by her parents and given her father’s old clothes for Christmas.

Flying in the face of good taste doesn’t even scratch Gvasalia’a surface. Bags were strung with those little metal replicas of the Eiffel Tower the touts try to sell you outside Parisian tourist attractions. And we’ve all seen those fabulously garish Balenciaga boots from last season on city streets—the ones with the floral print? I’ve seen so many, I’m sure they must be sold out entirely, but a new pattern this season—daisies. It’s funny, but the women I see wearing those boots aren’t ever wearing Balenciaga’s edgier wares. They aren’t into subversive “second-hand” sportswear. They’re pairing their Balenciaga boots with outfits that are infinitely more earnest in their ostentation. Consider that.

This season there were also boots and pants printed with screensaver shots of landscapes and sunsets which will, by the measure of their older aforementioned cousins, be everywhere this spring. Can’t wait.

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