Cathy Horyn Fashion Review: Balenciaga & Alexander McQueen
From left to right: Balenciaga, McQueen, Balenciaga.
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Courtesy of Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen
One year ago, As the reality of lockdowns and social distancing deepened, designers wondered if things would ever get back to normal. At home in Switzerland, Demna Gvasalia did too – to a point. âI mean, fashion shows and a row of cars waiting for people outside – does any of that make sense? ” he said. “For me that hasn’t made sense for a long time now.” The pandemic has been a creative anvil for many designers. Think of the free volumes of Jonathan Anderson, the sharp modernism of Daniel Roseberry at Schiaparelli, the new range of Christopher John Rogers and Virginie Viard, whose work at Chanel has acquired a nice less scripted touch. At Balenciaga, Gvasalia sought to bring more 21st century reality to the way clothing is viewed, using AI and player technology, as well as video. Once known for his elaborate staging, he truly escaped the limits of the track.
Today, he presents his spring 2022 collection three months ahead of his peers, and here again the mode of expression is in tune with the times. In essence, the whole show – the models parading down a catwalk, the black-clad audience watching – is a ruse. There is, in fact, only one model, the regular Balenciaga Eliza Douglas. The other girls are digital clones of Eliza, or Eliza with a wig, dark glasses, or scarf. It’s pretty awesome: why use a whole cabin when we can clone one! The public is also wrong, although this was obvious. Everyone looked generic. Or do fashion people really look generic to a stranger – same wardrobe, same posture and frowns, sameâ¦ black cars?
Two years ago, Gvasalia put on a wonderful show (in a parliamentary style boardroom) around the notion of the cloak of power and also how the media influences our perceptions. This latest show played with the images and the blurry, frightening and now familiar area between reality and fiction, the authentic and the counterfeit. The clearest example in terms of clothing was Gvasalia’s take on the Gucci logo, in a kind of retaliation to Alessandro Michele’s use of the Balenciaga name in April, part of what designers are calling the Hacker Project. Instead of double GGs on a belt buckle, Gvaslia has been replaced by BB, as if the logo and aura around it are changeable.
Photo: Courtesy of Balenciaga
But what I liked the most about this collection is the way Gvasalia moves further away from classifications, be it ‘high’ and ‘low’, ‘modern’ and ‘classic couture’. There are indeed many couture references, from the theatrical gesture of a high collar on an otherwise plain down jacket or jacket, to the arrogance of a large overcoat, the front pulled aside like the models of the years. 50 photographs. Except that a big pin keeps the coat closed. For me, this gesture referred to the work of Yohji Yamamoto, who often rejoiced in the imagery of Parisian elegance and then broke it down.
So be it. This process of talking to the past, of changing shapes, is what drives fashion forward. And Gvasalia is extremely avant-garde. One of the most stylish looks in the collection, I thought, was a loose, slightly off-the-shoulder jumpsuit, apparently in black denim, with raver-style pants. Other raver pants came with “Balenciaga” scripted on the bias, but despite the informality of the denim, the effect was quite sleek and polished. A fitted black leather dress was the counter-example: it fitted with stitching precision and required no detail.
On July 7, Gvasalia will put online, that is to say with a real audience, the first Balenciaga haute couture collection for several decades. It’s been in the works for quite some time and it will almost certainly allow Gvasalia to move into new territory as he considers the profound changes of the past year.
Photo: Courtesy of Alexander McQueen
Sarah Burton’s Alexander McQueen Fall 2021 collection will also be released this week, with its release scheduled closer to in-store deliveries. Inspired by flowers – anemones and water lilies – and photographed by Paolo Roversi, the collection continues Burton’s theme of âeveryday coutureâ. This means lightweight fabrics like poly-faille, poly taffeta, and denim, all rendered with McQueen-level craftsmanship. Among the notable pieces are dresses with flared skirts with a flowery image of an anemone – after being crushed, photocopied and printed. The effect is both beautiful and casual. Lilies appear as almost aquatic-looking silver-embroidered flowers on T-shirts, sometimes falling below the hem and worn with cigarette pants and white sneakers.
It’s the atmosphere: refined but relaxed. By the way, in its pre-fall collection (released in May), Burton took a slight step away from the off-the-shoulder cut that McQueen is known for, and which is indeed everywhere for fall. Sewing is one of the biggest stories, as if it was timed for coming back to the office and getting dressed. Burton showed off a navy blue cashmere double-breasted coat with a slightly reinforced shoulder, not a razor line. It comes with a hefty price tag ($ 3,450), but, on top of that, it comes with a built-in sense that the wearer is already distinctly and silently different.