Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A look at the future....


Today was B-Day. For those of you who aren't me and don't know what the hell I'm talking about (which is most of you), that stands for Balenciaga day, the day when Nicolas Ghesquiere sent his models into battle dressed to the hilt in clothes that will inevitably effect the course of fashion history....for the next 6 months at least.

I personally approached this collection both with a sense of excited anticipation and nervous aprehension. Would it be good? Would I love it? How on earth could it possibly live up to F/W 08, which won me over instantaneously with a one-two punch of sex, glamour, strength and above all, Fashion with a capital F. My reaction was pure adrenaline while looking at it, and in case enthusiasm doesn't translate in type, that feeling has yet to wear off. It was the kind of fashion show that only comes along so often, that hits you right in the gut and leaves a mark, I'd call that a fashion moment. I've only experienced a few in my short lifetime, Balenciaga F/W 08.09 was one of them. In a way it's similar, and yet opposite, to how I've been approaching Dior lately. With Dior my expectations have dropped to the point where I don't expect much anymore.

So you can understand why I felt the way I did about seeing the collection for S/S 09. In a way I was prepared to be not entirely blown away, I mean I knew it would be good, but I realized that the chances of me reacting the same way twice were slim. This collection didn't excite me, or at least it hasn't excited me yet. I've been feeling that a lot this season, and in a way it's not so unexpected. We're living in unsure times, it's only natural that designers are feeling unsure, and that it rubs off on the people seeing it.

That's not to say Ghesquiere failed, because he didn't. The show was a technical marvel right out of the best kind of Sci-Fi film; cold, precise, alien. In that sense it was classic Ghesquiere, and classic Balenciaga as well. But for me, it didn't make as powerful a statement as his last collection did. Instead it just further elaborated on things he's already done. I can see beauty in the collection, in the strangeness of it, in the tiny pleats on a metallic jacket with rounded shoulders, in the shine of pale sequins under the dim space age lighting that cast a robotic glow on the runway. But once I look past the surface beauty and interest, I'm left wondering what this really says about where Ghesquiere, or fashion, is going.

A short seven look menswear collection was placed about midway through the lineup. It had a Hedi Slimane sharpness, but cleaned up and de-trendied thanks to Ghesquiere's rigorous eye. Overall though, it was a bit jarring to just place a handful of men's looks in the midst of a women's collection, especially given that Balenciaga isn't especially well known for it menswear. One thing's for sure, if I had the limbs of a praying mantis and the body of a junkie, I'd be all over this partiular look. But the fact that I don't have either of those things could be why I've yet to buy into the super slim menswear that seems to be the only thing that matters in mens fashion anymore. God forbid you have discernable shoulders or a broad chest, you're shunned quicker than a slutty gay Mennonite.

As the show progressed, it did get stronger, with the evening looks being particularly beautiful and managing to capture some of the glamour that Ghesquiere gave us last season. I also love the geometric skinny cropped trousers, which are sort of a continuation of the black, gray and white cropped skinny trousers of fall.

I think the thing that bothers me most about this collection is that it doesn't let you know where Ghesquiere plans to take fashion next. It's not like S/S 08 where he showed structured, anatomically exaggerated and protective silhouettes smothered in flowers, both of which would influence the fashions that came after it. Nor is it like F/W 08 where the futurism was so finely distilled as to make truly modern looking, wearable clothes that seemed destined for powerful women as opposed to trendy girls. At the end of the day, Nicolas can do this sort of hyper modern futurism seen through a retro 80's lens in his sleep. It's nothing new from him, and it's nothing new for fashion, no matter how technically accomplished or captivating it is.

Comme des Garcons

Comme des Garcons is one of those houses that you need to grow into, or at least I did. Rei Kawakubo's aesthetic isn't for everyone, which is probably why it's so appealing to people...not that that makes any sense, but you get where I'm going. This season she abandoned the insanely exaggerated boudoir femininity and Amy Winehouse tartiness in favor of predominantly black 3-D shapes cut from hexagonal pieces of fabric and huge pompadour wigs that look a bit like the ash that explodes out of a volcano. Sound strange? It is, and it's not the kind of collection where you can see where the inspiration came from, or even make something up in your head to explain it to yourself....like with Prada. The thing with CdG is, my guess is as good as anyone else's....and it's never right anyway so here's to guessing. Who knows, between the boulder like shapes and explosive headgear, my volcano idea might not be so far off. There was a first time that I loved a Prada collection right away, imagine the first time that I'm right about what a designer was thinking. It could happen.

One of the major trends I've been noticing on the runways these past few weeks is three dimensional cutting, which has produced some extremely angular, interesting and no doubt challenging shapes. None the less it's an interesting trend to see, and Kawakubo's collection represents the trend perfectly. It's strange given these insane financial woes all over the world that so many designers, Francisco Costa, Donatella Versace and Christopher Kane among them, are proposing such daring and potentially alienating shapes. Sure, there are showroom collections to cover the financial needs of a label, but you have to wonder, what's the use of all of this innovation and newness if it isn't likely to impact what people wear?

all fashion show images from Catwalking.com via MulletProof and thoth at tFS.

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