Balenciaga
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The designer and the docent

Balenciaga
The collection Nicolas Ghesquière showed for Balenciaga in Paris last month was the fall runway season’s most exhilarating. It was modern yet faithful to the house’s couture roots; technically innovative with stiff, athletic-inspired materials yet quietly elegant and artistic. But more than anything, it was beautiful, which is why buyers and editors are still talking about it weeks later. Here, in his own words, Ghesquière explains the creative process behind the collection. (Balenciaga)
Architectural black dresses and skirts
On the sharp, architectural black dresses and skirts at the show’s opening:

There was a 3-D aspect. I wanted people to be able to turn around in the clothes, so every part was different depending on how you look at it. Wool crepe, gabardine and felt were mixed with foam or jersey to make them look like neoprene or something more thick. That’s where the newness is, in the manipulation of the fabric.

Balenciaga worked with double-faced fabric. We do the sandwich -- compressing cotton, wool and different types of silk with high-tech fabric. But I don’t want anything synthetic on the skin. I only want natural fiber. So most of the clothes are cotton jersey inside, like a sweat-shirt jersey. Even the trousers are soft and comfortable inside. It gives something classic and traditional a high-tech element. And it’s really modern to have one layer of fabric now that the weather is changing. (© Southern Stock Corp/Corbis, Kirk McKoy/ Los Angeles Times)
Footwear
On the clear plasticky molded footwear:

The boots were inspired by Rachel Whiteread, a contemporary artist who works with resin and plastic and gum, molding them in a way that looks natural but also very plastic. (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images, Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Landscape print
On the landscape print finale dresses:

We worked with latex, hand-painting it. We had five people doing it for a month, and now they are doing production. We specially hired them, and most of them work in interior decorating or fine arts. The idea came from Chinese screens. I thought it was interesting how you could be transported to a landscape in such a small piece of wood. I thought maybe I should try to make a dress that gave that perspective. But for the texture, I wanted to try something different . . . .

Latex is natural but not really precious. But then I thought about the way we look at Bakelite from the 1950s today, as if it was a precious thing. And I thought how are we going to look at latex in 25 years, now that there is such an issue around petroleum, and will we even still have it? It could become very rare. I treated it as if it was precious by hand-painting it.

We did the drawings on the latex and molded it into plates, then we took them out and hand-painted them. It was a very complex puzzle. Between the first molding and the final thing, it took three weeks. (Getty Images/Bridgeman Art Library, Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
Tops
On the draped velvet and taffeta tops:

I love the way in paintings by El Greco you have a touch of light on the clothes, or chiaroscuro. I love how it gives a richness to the fabrics and is very grand in a way and dramatic. . . . I wanted these to look very spontaneous, like something you do yourself -- very naturally draped. But I was careful not to go too far and control them too much. If you start to fix everything, you lose the idea of something thrown around the body. (Giulio Napolitano / AFP / Getty Images, Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)
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