Post Paris XXV

25th anniversary double feature with John-Michael O'Sullivan, discussing:
Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2013

"It's about America. It's not about couture." Those were the words Helmut Lang used to explain why he turned down Balenciaga in 1996, and instead packed up his label for a new life in New York. Couture was the past, then; and no-one could have dreamed then that the past would come to so utterly dominate the future.

There have been four designers at Balenciaga - or rather, at the brand set up by a company who purchased the name from Balenciaga's family long after he'd died, and even longer after he'd abruptly closed his business. Michel Goma, the old-school couturier; Josephus Thimister, the tortured dreamer; Nicolas Ghesquiére, the temp who managed against all expectations to escape the archives and translate Balenciaga into the 21st century; and Alexander Wang, the American picked because the label's owners decided they wanted it to be 'approachable'.

But instead of a brand new start, the cracked black-and-white marble floor on Wang's runway felt funereal, like the marble in Slimane's intensely divisive remaining of Saint Laurent. Chill, cold, unyielding: less a new start than a requiem mass. Chill, ice-white bark textures, cold colours, unyielding shapes: and yet the 'approachable' , marketable, profitable energy of a young American designer kept breaking through the cracks.

The premier appoggiatura of 'Wangciaga' confronts us with a backwards-minded collection that puts the hard-edged feminity of Nicolas Ghesquière into question. Its anti-tools: the nostalgic, ladylike elegance of Cristóbal Balenciaga combined with the retro-fiction of Kenneth Price and cyber-organic wood-carvings of H.R. Giger.

1. Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2013
2. Balenciaga Vogue Paris, July 1948
3. Balenciaga Henry Clarke, 1951
4. Saint Laurent Boutique, 2012
5. Balenciaga Evening ensemble, 1967
6. Kenneth Price Mountainside Sculpture, 2009
7. H.R. Giger New York City X, 1981
8. Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2013

More reviews by John-Michael O'Sullivan 1972 Projects


Duck said...

I feel they've made a mistake in their choice if they wanted a more approachable collection...

1972 said...

Don't know, I think the patterns were the kind of recognisable, repeatable thing that gets the Givenchy tills going . . .