Paris Fashion Week spring 2014: Balenciaga review


New York-based designer Alexander Wang showed his hotly anticipated second collection for the French fashion house of Balenciaga on Thursday morning at the Paris Observatory.

The scene: Guests climbed the stairs to the top floor, where a picture window looked out over the treetops. In the audience at the early morning show was pop star M.I.A., hiding under her customary hoodie, and sporting some seriously cool gold, baroque-style nail art.

The inspiration: Bringing sportswear ease to Balenciaga’s signature sculptural shapes.

The look: Balenciaga goes to the beach. The house’s architectural geometry loosened up and uncovered, meaning lots of short hems and bare legs.

Key pieces: Structured, tweedy-looking hand-braided leather mini-skirts, sleeveless moto-jackets and haute dolphin shorts. Buttery leather dresses with capelet backs, and perforated surface details. Black-and-white rubber printed knit crop tops, peplum skirts, petal-lapel pants and shorts. (The prints looked like abstracted florals, but the starting point was actually a snapshot of a cloth washed up in the ocean tide, according to show notes.) Crisp white cotton poplin shirts, some with capelet backs, others with volume through the sleeves (worn on the runway as short dresses) and cool, tuxedo-style, sway-back jackets (again, worn as dresses). Less successful were fussy, sheer “veiled” finale dresses in bridal-like hues.

The verdict: Commercially appealing if not out-of-this-world transporting. While the collection wasn’t necessarily visionary in terms of proposing a brave new way of dressing, it succeeded in bringing the traditional codes of the house up to date for a more modern, casual era. Wang is also developing some signatures of his own, too, namely crisp poplin shirting. And the super-short, sexy dresses and skirts should appeal to the young celeb set and net the brand publicity on the red carpet, which is key to today’s luxury brand-building game.