Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga, Spring 2012, 2011
At least five benches collapsed as people took their seats at the Rue Cassette space of the Balenciaga show. Too much soufflé last night, maybe? No one was badly hurt, just startled, but before another one could go crashing to the floor, a voice came on the loudspeaker and asked the audience to stand. It sort of felt like church. Which was fitting; the fashion set has long worshipped at the altar of Nicolas Ghesquière.
Even without the bench brouhaha, though, this would’ve been a memorable Ghesquière collection. He’s often gone back to Cristobal’s archives, but with other designers looking to midcentury couture this season, what set apart his own dip into history was the way he adapted traditionally haute constructions to the street. On the one hand, he asked himself, what are the elements of a classic urban wardrobe? And on the other, how do I Cristo-fy them with the legendary couturier’s floating, almost suspended shapes?
Quotidian jean jackets inspired spongy color-blocked numbers with shoulders as exaggerated as the short shorts paired with them were small. Denim made an appearance, too, but these weren’t the rear end- and leg-enhancing pants that are Ghesquière’s bread and butter. Rather, they were belted high on the waist and pleated for a fuller shape through the thigh. Sailor uniforms got an airing in the form of striped ottoman V-neck oversize tunic dresses. And even white T-shirts got the haute treatment, in a foamy fabric in slouchy, asymmetrical cuts. Some of these shapes were more challenging than others, but they’ll resonate with his fashion-mad fans.
Ghesquière really pushed the silhouette with the dresses at the end of the show. Patchworked from archival black and white prints or panels of tan and black, they came with Watteau backs that ballooned behind the models. With their large, elliptical brims, their visors (borrowed from a famous Irving Penn photograph) accentuated the bold diagonal lines.
If the Twin Peaks soundtrack playing before the show was any clue, unsettling the eye was at least part of Ghesquière’s point. (David Lynch, by the way, is having a moment; he designed Paris’ most talked-about new nightclub, Silencio.) No one can look backward and come up with propositions we’ve never seen before like Ghesquière can. Amen to that. Nicole Phelps.