It must be intimidating to dip back into the Balenciaga archives, as Alexander Wang did for his Fall/Winter 2015 collection — an exploration that prompted consideration of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s original clientele. It was a different fashion era when the brand headlined the world stage, a time when even the most lauded designers (Christian Dior and Coco Chanel) openly regarded Balenciaga as the “master” of them all. He was an innovative couturier capable of fitting clothes so spectacularly to the female body that the doyennes of the European set snapped up his collections in their entirety. Wang was faced with blending his own fashion identity with that of the luxury house’s founder, and the result was ladylike style purposefully undermined by subtle, subversive elements.
“Lady” means something altogether different today than it did back in the 50s; back then, lady was spelled with a capital “L” and was a title of privilege. Now, it’s more or less street slang, and this idea provided ample ground for Wang to explore. How does one bring the street to bear on elegant clothing? It starts with stiffly constructed, salt-and-pepper tweeds transformed into future-forward cocoon coats with sawtooth stand-up collars and staples along the seams. Pierced through with a Balenciaga-branded dagger and finished with gloves, pearl ear cuffs, and flat brogues, the effect was stunning.
Wang’s homage to the iconic Cristóbal multi-dimensional silhouette was crystal clear — bulkier tops were outfitted with sloping drop-shoulders or rounded in cut so that they held their shape away from the body. However, Wang’s fingerprints were all over the looks too, especially in the industrial hardware accents, the corseted off-shoulder dresses, the dangerous obsidian glitter of long jackets, and the athletic feel of embossed separates topped with rugby-striped scarves.
Hobble skirts didn’t fare as well on the runway and felt too old-fashioned, although they looked lovely in stillframe. In this active, demanding era, almost no one wants to wear something that derives its name from the fact that it literally impedes the wearer’s steps. As always, the best was saved for last when Wang debuted a jaw-dropping series of dresses. Some were mink-trimmed with puffy bubble skirts, others were densley coruscated, and the closing dress featured a chainmail top forged from tiny razor blades paired with a ballooning tulip skirt elegantly pricked with silver embroidery. It was a savagely beautiful note on which to end a nearly flawless show.
Photos: Courtesy of Imaxtree