Sunday

Paris Fashion Week: Balenciaga


I make absolutely no secret of the fact that Paris Fashion Week is my favourite of all Fashion Weeks. I know I should say it's London, just to be kind, but in all brutal honesty the designers that show at Paris Fashion Week are far more up my street.

This weekend i've been totally glued to Style.Com, Showstudio and Catwalking, simply perusing the catwalk shows, compiling the wardrobe of my dreams. This season it's made up of Dries Van Noten feathered dresses, Lanvin Oxford flats and power-shoudered jackets by Balmain. I have yet to feast my eyes on the CĂ©line collection but I fear that it will be very bad for my health. It's never nice to want something you know you'll never have.

Of all the shows thus far, there is one that has had me torn: Balenciaga. I have always been fanatical about Balenciaga- the first fashion history book I read from cover to cover was a book about the brand, and ever since I have been watching every move at this eponymous Parisian house, particularly obsessed with the fantastic work of Nicolas Ghesquiere during his time at the helm of the label.

His work was always contemporary and covetable, while still drawing on the rich heritage of the couturier. Nicolas Ghequiere was also responsible for one of my most adored collections ever, where he sent models down the catwalk wearing big, architectural cocoon coats with super-skinny pants and exaggerated riding hats.

His departure from Balenciaga late last year, following a devastatingly beautiful final collection for SS13, sent shockwaves through the industry. While i'm not one to gossip, I was initially intrigued as to why Nicolas departed, but like the rest of the us fashion-crazed lot, I was far more excited at the prospect of who would be taking over his role.

When it was announced that Alexander Wang, the New York designer that has taken the industry by storm, would be Nicolas' successor, many fashion editors were brimming with excitement at the prospect of Wang's streetwise, sporty aesthetic infiltrating the classic elegance that defines Balenciaga.

There is no denying that a great deal of pressure fell on Alexander Wang's shoulders for his debut AW13 collection, and while in some respects he did deliver, in others I felt he fell ever so slightly short.



The collection played very much on the iconic and celebrated shapes and styles of the house of Balenciaga- slim tapered pants, cocoon shapes and rounded shoulders were central in the collection, modernised with unusual fabrics and slightly more sculptural detailing.

Though there was a great emphasis on slim cigarette pants in this collection, which was a departure from the more feminine attributes of the Balenciaga brand, the true spirit of Alexander Wang's modern style did not quite come through.

Perhaps it would have been nice to see a more futuristic approach, as is often seen in his own-brand collection, or even something rather more innovative. While this collection was totally lovely, full of mesmerising pieces that I would be more than proud to call my own, it lacked a certain punch that I really hoped Alexander Wang could deliver.


Many critics have compared Wang's debut to the early shows of Ghesquiere, though I personally do not feel this is fair. I think that, on the whole, Wang has done a fair old job. Perhaps he is simply scared of breaking too much from the boundaries within this couture fashion house- the age-old styles and touches that have worked so well for so very long.

He has, in all fairness, brought a certain modernity to the looks. Standouts include fabulous flat leather boots adding a fresh dimension to angular tops and coated knitwear offering a contemporary tactility to simple balloon crop tops.

There are a million and one things, to reiterate, that I would wear in this collection: the pointed t-bar courts, the plunge neck dress in a scratchy monochromatic print and, of course, the delectable crop tops and artfully tailored trousers with meticulous origami detailing.

There is no denying that a great deal of work and thought has gone into this debut, and in many ways it has paid off. From a buying perspective, i'm sure that this collection will be a great success, for it is wholly wearable and sophisticated. From an editorial perspective, it is not as strong and enticing as previous collections have been, which is somewhat disappointing.

All my moaning to one side, I am a huge admirer of Alexander Wang's work and I certainly do feel that there is a great deal of promise within the collection.  and I hope that Alexander Wang can break from his apparent restraint this season to entirely reinvent the label in as effective and unique a way as his predecessor.

(images courtesy of Catwalking)
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