For Whom Does the Balenciaga Hotline Bling?

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At Balenciaga, where menswear and womenswear were combined for the first time, a few young dudes dashed down the runway in looks emblazoned with a telephone number that rang up a Balenciaga “hotline”. Calling that number connected you to a woman who, after assuring you that the call was confidential, proceeded to ask a series of questions, from age and location to whether or not you own a pet. Market research or fun gimmick? It was hard to tell, but it did make you feel more included in Balenciaga’s enigmatic universe.

Other looks bore a charity angle, as thick hoodies emblazoned with the World Food Programme logo came layered beneath multiple pieces of outerwear. Reportedly, Demna Gvasalia is sick of doing prints for prints’ sake and wanted those in his Fall/Winter 2018 collection to mean something. What better way to evoke meaning than by raising money for charity; 10 percent of proceeds will go to benefit the World Food Programme.

Another curious aspect of the presentation was the snowboarder theme, backed by a “snow mountain” set covered in bespoke, branded graffiti. Clearly, this informed the stacks of outerwear worn by Balenciaga’s models, although we’re not convinced that anyone needs to wear six parkas at once to cover up from even the most extreme temperatures – that was just a styling conceit.

Photo: Courtesy of Imaxtree

What is easy to understand is how successful Gvasalia’s experimentations have been.

Finally, Balenciaga’s familiar “basque” silhouette, with its exaggerated, padded hips and nipped waist, was achieved with the aid of 3D body scans that made sure fits were precise and even clinical in their perfection.

All of these factors contributed to our ongoing feeling that there is a lot going on at Balenciaga, and none of it is easy to pin down. What is easy to understand, however, is how successful Gvasalia’s experimentations have been. All it takes is a look at the audience in attendance to see how favorably the fashion crowd has responded to his creations, particularly when it comes to his normcore streetwear, “ugly” sneakers, and knife boots. This collection bore many hallmarks of what has come before, from the lean, tailored looks that started the show to the massive volumes that closed it. Sandwiched in between were a variety of fantastic plissé rubber (!) skirts, punctilious outerwear, padded bed jackets, and thick plaids. It was a greatest hits collection, audaciously performed only two years into his tenure, proving that Gvasalia has already accrued enough “chart toppers” to publish a double-disc album.

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