“I feel it’s like the last day of school, and I wanted to so something unexpected,” said Alexander Wang, bowing out of Balenciaga with an all-white collection and a run past the audience, waving his smartphone as if taking an Instagram.
That was after a show that kept Wang’s sporty aesthetic, but gave it a romantic side, with ruffles and lace from neck to fluffy sandals. Walking by long channels of water, in what will be the new headquarters of Kering, Balenciaga’s parent company, there was a spa feeling about the set and the women’s state of undress. From the bra tops down to slithery petticoats to floaty chiffon tops, silken pants or lace dresses, the suggestion was of a woman who had not moved far from her bedroom.
“It’s about underwear,” said Wang, putting himself in the same category as Dior designer Raf Simons, who also opted for a lingerie feeling. Balenciaga’s American designer went for a more sporty look, with loose jackets, muslin trousers and A-line short skirts, all body conscious pieces in their exposure of flesh at midriff or stretch of bare thigh.
What is it with Paris fashion, that we are seeing soft and often transparent clothes from designers whose aesthetic has formerly been tougher?
“I liked the idea of digging up things and giving them a second life, so that everything has this lived-in feeling,” said Wang, adding that the purity and softness seen in the show were “things that people don’t necessarily think of from me.”
The impression was that Wang’s stint at Balenciaga has been personal: a way for a smart and energetic designer to have a European experience, as well as his Los Angeles/New York axis. Whereas his predecessor Nicolas Ghesquière (now at Louis Vuitton) used some of Cristobal Balenciaga’s imagery, the furthest Wang went in that direction was a playful parody last season.
Who is on next? Let’s hope that Kering will find a designer who is interested in exploring the Balenciaga heritage — and making it relevant for today.