Balenciaga: Subversive Elegance
The curving bosoms, the raised waists, the full hips — and a diamond arrow alongside strings of pearls. It was all so very Cristóbal.
Since Alexander Wang’s tenure as Creative Director at Balenciaga he has never before designed a collection with such a perfume of the past. The inspiration of the original Cristóbal Balenciaga, who died in 1972, was helped by Lady Gaga vogueing on the runway before the start of the show, while Gaga and Kate Moss then posed together, showing off the formal and the casual side of the brand today.
“I liked the idea of including heirloom things and pairing them together with embroideries — it’s a subversive elegance,” Wang said, to explain the mix of past and present.
This show was a big test for Wang, who has previously given the historic house his sporty touch. For Autumn/Winter 2015, as the creator of a camped-up Cristóbal, he came out with flying colours. That meant, literally, bright scarlet, although the basic look was of black and white checks to match the carpet on the catwalk.
The idea of memory — of taking the scent of the past and spraying it over the present — was done with dash and style.
The show still had sleek workwear, with rounded coats worn over narrow pants. Although no woman in the Fifties would have dared to wear the trousers, there was still a faintly retro feel. The more general look was of top and skirt, where a taut bodice was tucked into a skirt bunched at the waist, the models walking with that thrusting, greyhound gait of haute couture in its glory days.
Somehow, the show managed not to come across as a costume party. Maybe it was the cute shoes with a tiny court heel, or perhaps the exuberant overkill of jewellery.
Towards the end of the show, when Wang outlined a portrait neck with fur, there was a nobility to this couture look that had even the most jeans ’n’ sneakers members of the audience dream of fashion life as it could, just maybe, still be today.
Issey Miyake: Letting off Digital Steam
Issey Miyake, the brand’s founder, always had a sense of drama in his presentation. I remember many shows that brought the clothes to life in a spectacular way.
So it is good to see that Yoshiyuki Miyamae, who now holds the reins as Artistic Director, producing shows that enchant as well as inform.
When models in short skirts twirled around, the fabric unfolding to full length as if by magic, I recalled the many ways this company, over the years, has taken a presentation beyond mere clothing.
But the great skill of the current designer is to create performance art, this season using a Japanese musician and singer, and to concentrate visually on the way the collection takes shape in colour and texture.
It started with 3D Steam Stretch fabric technology developed by the Miyake company. The technique is that material pre-woven with ‘mountain and valley’ folds, becomes, under steam, permanent three-dimensional patterns.
It sounds complex, even weird, yet the effect was rich and colourful, with the depth of shades in plum, moss, and purple quite eye-popping. The designer explained the processes in show notes. The important part was that Miyamae and his Tokyo team have taken three seasons to perfect this textural revolution.
Like a fine artist, who mixes colours on his palette and works with pattern and texture, Miyamae made major visual impact while at the same time creating wearable outfits.
I hope that customers receive information about this 21st-century clothing when they shop at Miyake, and appreciate how smart it was of Issey to find a designer as ready as its founder for experimentation — but with all the fresh energy of a new generation steeped in technology.
Yohji Yamamoto: Fashion Poet
Like a flower unfolding from tight bud to full bloom, a Yohji Yamamoto show is slow and graceful.
It always starts in the darkness of black and ends that way, although this season had flashes of colour, starting with mud brown and dark navy and then swelling to a crescendo of vermilion.
The poetry is as much in the make-up as the clothes, with twigs of black drawn beside the eyes for this season. But that framing was nothing compared to the scaffolding holding up the skirt of a dress like a crinoline.
I have seen these Yohji constructions before, yet they never cease to add an element of poetic grandeur as these contraptions are worn so lightly. One, especially, was noble in its silver whiteness, the foiled fabric stretched over slender branches. Then all that fairyland was brought down to earth with bright brogues with a hot pink toe cap.
Yes, Yohji also makes many ‘normal’ clothes, the most interesting in knitted ribbing surrounded by other kinds of worked wool in deep purple with lilac.
The designer’s work is instantly recognisable but infinitely inventive. And that is his lasting strength.