PARIS -- New York-based designer Alexander Wang delivered his third, and most solid, runway collection for the French luxury brand Balenciaga on Thursday during Paris Fashion Week.
He played with several classic Balenciaga standards -- architectural outerwear and sculptural volumes among them -- infusing them with 21st century knitwear techniques and action-sports-inspired utility details. The result was a modern, urban look that felt like an elevated version of what he did for his namesake collection in New York: luxury for the speed-demon generation.
Last season, I criticized Wang’s work at Balenciaga for being more commercially minded than creative. But this collection balanced the two, with dazzling tactile effects and a vision of the way today’s women really dress, i.e., less vaunted couture, and more sporty street comfort.
The collection was anchored in strong, sports-inspired outerwear with fur hoods, framing seams and zippers, worn with fur-apron or reflective-yarn accessories. Other coats appeared to be knit but were actually embroidered for a trompe l’oeil effect. But the most show-stopping piece of outerwear was a casual yellow duffel raincoat that was anything but basic: It was made of a cable-knit base laminated to glossy perfection. A future classic.
Other marvels of construction that will look impressive in the pages of a magazine? Structured short-sleeve leather dresses hand-lashed together with knit skirts and turtlenecks, and rugby-stripe dresses composed of laser-cut knit jersey links pieced together like chain mail.
In the more down-to-earth category, reflective canvas chevron pinstripe pants and wool sack dresses with more seam and zipper details looked cool and wearable. There were also several tailored looks in black wool crepe -- a jacket with a lapel morphing into caped sleeves, and a pair of pants with a skirted side panel, for example, that had an edge.
For evening, Wang dispensed with gowns and focused instead on something more modern -- tuxedo trousers topped by extraordinary tops combining draped duchesse satin with sculptural “sea urchin” sweater knits dripping with clusters of rhinestones and pearls.
And there were bags aplenty, including fur and crocodile totes with industrial-looking metal handles, almost as if Wang were willing women to the stores.
He needn’t worry. This collection will be money in the bank for Balenciaga.