One of the most awaited shows this awards season was Alexander Wang’s debut at Balenciaga. With bated breath, everyone was wondering how an american high street wear designer will live up to the legacy of Cristobal Balenciaga whom Dior called ‘the master of us all’ and Nicholas Ghesquire who took the label to new heights before his contract ended last season. Rooting most of his collection on Balenciaga”s thought process, Alexander Wang certainly did not disappoint in his first outing. Now as a designer myself, I am aware of the time one needs to produce a collection for the runway. Considering, according to the press he started working on it in January, and producing two collections simultaneously in that time crunch (his own label’s and balenciaga’s) I am sure either he is very good at managing himself or would have been pretty crazy for him to shuttle between New York and Paris.
Taking one back to the Balenciaga basics, the designer’s restrained show with crackled marble runway and toned down setting, checked all the boxes. While both designers, Balenciaga and Wang are as different as they come, but times change. The way to evolve a fashion house is to examine its foundations and adapt it to a contemporary context. Thats what precisely mr. Wang did. While he looked to Balenciaga but without being too reverntial, he brought forth, what i felt, an underlining ‘wang-ness’ to the collection. What resulted in was turning around of Balenciaga couture and making it wearable. Signature structured elegance in the form of rounded jackets, molded peplums and contemporary embroidery(how could he not do it after Ghesquire did it) made wearable appearances on the runway. He played it safe, but he made no mistakes.
I loved the fact that he minimized the couture-ness of the signature of the design house to make them realistic for today while referencing it to the past. A few bodice draped dresses caught my attention since they are to pull off in ready to wear line. Furthermore what also intersted me was despite and understated show, his use of technology and technique to come up with textiles. He played with textures, making knit look like cracked leather (which is difficult to do to knit since both are different materials) and hard stiff wool. As Style.com reviewed “he cracked, paint-spackled mohair knits were some of the best things on the catwalk; they made for a nice metaphor, too, about the promise of a young designer ready to break with the past when the time’s right.” Giving the modern buzz to the design house, he created a collection which had the flavor of the master. Here is hoping to this new designer settles in seamlessly (pun intended) into the fabric of the design house of Balenciaga.
A few other reviews of the show that i came across:
“The New York designer can certainly build on these clothes for next season, adding color and maybe more decoration, but if he continues to strike that modern balance between couture and the street, he will renew a great name — and win over doubters.” — Cathy Horyn feels confident about his future at Balenciaga in The New York Times.
“It’s fair to say that there was more Balenciaga than Alexander Wang in this particular collection — the looseness of his fabrications replaced by something stiffer and more luxurious here — and it was right that he let the house take over. It’s a big house after all and this is his first season.” — Jessica Bumpus, Vogue UK
“The stardust in Wang’s own-label collections at New York fashion week has always been a sixth sense about what young women want to wear, and it is that connection which PPR hopes he can bring to Balenciaga…Where Ghesquiere’s design processes were intricate and multi-layered, Wang’s approach was to present the subtle, nuanced codes of Balenciaga in a new, simple way. As Wang commented after the show, Balenciaga himself ‘took the avant-garde, and made it everyday.'” — Jess Cartner-Morley, fashion editor at The Guardian.
“The front row cheered as the designer took his bow — proof of his well earned and enduring popularity and a sign he will be supported going forward. He should be as proud of his work as we are.” ELLE editor-in-chief Lorraine Candy.
“Based on his body of work in New York, it’s hard to imagine him embracing obvious retro over the long haul; he may feel compelled to inject a grittier currency going forward. Nor did the show offer the heady thrill of Nicolas Ghesquière’s best work, the brilliance of which brought the house from decades of dormancy back into the forefront of fashion until the designer’s tenure there started to sour. But for a collection not a minute more than two months in the making from first glimmer to runway, it made for an impressive start.” — WWD.
“For my money, it looked decidedly more grown up than his previous offerings (no surprise there), rather pretty in places (not a word usually associated with Wang’s collections), lacking in colour, and a bit weird towards the end. All in all, not a bad start. Maybe.” — Belinda White at The Telegraph .
“There were few vivid or kitschy stand-out pieces – save the blogger-worthy stormy, marble veined fur jackets which closed the show. Instead monochromatic good taste and simple elegance prevailed. This was a catwalk show which was immediately understandable and resolutely sellable.” — Catherine Ormerod atGrazia .
*Images from style.com*