Showing his first collection for Balenciaga, designer Alexander Wang symbolically took the brand back to its roots. The homage began with his choice to return to the intimate setting of the historic Balenciaga salons on avenue George V. Where for the past two months the staff had worked around the clock to transform the rooms into a graphic monochromatic mélange of white walls, lacquered black door frames and hardwood floors dyed black.
In this pristine setting Wang added a marble effect runway for his models to follow from room to room. The audience too wanted to trail behind Wang’s women once the predominantly black and white show got underway. How else but up close could you really appreciate the craftsmanship and unusual textiles that the young designer was so deftly using in this debut collection.
“For me it was really, you know, going back to the clothes, and the history and the DNA of the house and starting it as a prolog and having it be the first step of hopefully a very long journey,” said a smiling Alexander Wang backstage after his show.
And yes you could call this collection respectful of the brand’s heritage. That deference could be seen in the rounded shoulders on the stiff cocooning outerwear, the sculptural way the designer curved out the peplum of a halter neck dress and the above the wrist “bracelet” sleeves. It was clear that Wang was a good student and had spent quite a bit of time in the house archives.
But the 29 year old designer, who made his name with the upscale streetwear of his signature label, was in no way cowed by the man who founded the house. He transformed the fresh sporty style he knows so well into something sleek and pure, and decidedly luxe for Balenciaga. A sleeveless inverted triangle top was held to the body with a sporty black bra felt modern, as did what looked like rather reserved tops from the front that turned to reveal an open back with the sides pealed back and away from the shoulder blades to expose a marble motif. Even the pieces coated in a white patina that crackled like dried paint looked fresh. And let’s not forget his stylish box new Balenciaga handbag.
But where Wang really surprised his audience was how quickly he wrestled to his will a number of highly complex sartorial techniques. Besides the photogenic crackled designs, this marble inspired show had the Wang playing with the concept of how to bring together pieces with movement and those of a more monolithic proportions.
His white sheath dress covered in a tone-on-tone piping to echo the idea of veins in marble was interesting and the open weave lace and velvet pants that looked like strata was cleverly done. They were very “editorial” when paired with topiary-like furs that followed the marble theme but also had a contemporary camouflage edge.
In one fell swoop Wang transformed the Balenciaga brand. He brought it forward without forgetting where it came from.
- Jessica Michault