i-D’s Paris Editor Sarah Hay reports on the Balenciaga pre-collection from New York.
Around nineteen looks walked the minimal, white floorboards at 9am in the showrooms of Balenciaga New York today accompanied by an introduction then commentary by director of international press, Lionel Vermeil. The silent, tangible, dramatic pause from the power-crop of editors present was immediately answered by an opening statement: the pre-collection wasn’t designed by Alexander Wang but by the “Balenciaga Studio”.
And so the looks came, showing that the Balenciaga studio had chosen to chime all the key notes of the house with preened charm and precise chic. Nothing crazy, no sudden moves, more a light symphony of familiar elements that position Balenciaga at the driving edge of fashion’s curve. Propositions of volume on jackets and suits. Eccentric, eye-catching prints on breathy, chiffon shirts contrasted with strips of leather. Suits, such as a grey pinstripe worn by Hanne Gaby Odiele, had inspiration from the 60s via little crocodile boots that met a silhouette from the 90s, something that a member of the Balenciaga studio said felt very now for the team. And finally, of course, the fabric technology. Some fabrics on the dresses used were created by Cristobal Balenciaga himself. One embroidered dress over black trousers, titled an “edition piece” came from the winter 1966 collection. Another fabric crafted into a below-the-knee skirt was black perforated velvet.
An interesting fact giving insight into the team’s creative process was a floor-length dress of black chiffon that had patched shapes in dark corn blue, in particular one curling from the left hip down to the right foot. “This dress was the beginning of the process for the spring-summer collection with the ruffle,” said Vermeil, referring to the stand-out statement of the collection that was to be the last signed by Nicolas Ghesquière. “The team started from this dress so for the pre-coll the studio decided to go back to this first step.”
Gentle flow mirroring the ebb of nature from one season into another felt like the unspoken theme today, as behind the genteel calm of the presentation was, of course, the biggest headline to have struck fashion since Raf Simons’ appointment at Dior; that of Alexander Wang succeeding Nicolas Ghesquière as creative director of Balenciaga.
Sparks and jolts from the events of last year subsided as eyes rested on insulating headbands, elegantly clunky jewellery and bracelets, then little black ankle boots, that gave everything an urban, edgy feel. But then a liberal dusting of pale peach on cashmere wool overcoats or skinny cigarillo pants made from kid leather dyed grey granted the sharp, preened Balenciaga cuts a sense of warm power.
Female power is predicted as a zeitgeist theme of 2013 and the term neo-feminism has been mentioned in the French fashion press this month. As this ‘neo-feminism’ blinks young and fresh in January’s sun so a new crop of girls are finding their way to their own style of womanhood in the home and office which will need a wardrobe to match. Balenciaga, going by this collection, is with them every step of the journey.
Text: Sarah Hay