Once-obscure designer makes anticipated debut for Balenciaga

PARIS (AFP) - Paris fashion's new rebel prince Demna Gvasalia took the venerable label Balenciaga by the lapels on Sunday and gave it an almighty yank in his debut show for the brand.

The street-style iconoclast - a refugee who fled war-torn Georgia as a teenager - frogmarched the fashion house so beloved of Jackie Kennedy and the crowned heads of Europe into a less reverential age.

Coats and jackets were pulled down off shoulders and he gave some of his models bags you might do your discount Saturday shopping with.

With fashion royalty packing the front row for the most anticipated show of Paris fashion week, Gvasalia, 34, pulled no punches.

He brought everything but a hoodie from the oversized street look he pioneered at his achingly hip Paris brand Vetements, with 1980s-style anoraks, puffa jackets and classic French raincoats ripped down off the shoulder.

Yet in a deft nod to the Spanish house's traditions, he gave the oversized treatment to six classic Balenciaga tweed suits and dresses, pushing them out at the hips.

The stern grey and brown ensembles, paired with glasses and flat centre partings, gave the models something of the air of East German Stasi officers or Roald Dahl's villainous headmistress from his classic children's book Matilda, Miss Agatha Trunchbull.

But there was lightness too in a series of 1980s-inspired dresses, some spliced together from three different floral patterns, with barbershop stripy tights.

Another blouse would not have looked out of place on Princess Diana, the decade's royal style icon.

Massive oversized overcoats held out as if by Victorian hoops went down the runway after rethought denim jackets and a man's shirt worn with one side out overhanging a long skirt, another Vetements' motif.

The second-hand shop chic continued with supersized skirts and sweaters teamed with white platform boots and fur and leather coats with trainers.

And watch out next autumn too for sunglasses with gigantic chains.

First reactions to the show were warm, but not ecstatic. Women's Wear Daily said it was "a promising debut, but hold the canonisation. The result was an interesting, often chic fusion of couture and street references". The instant verdict of Christina Binkley of the Wall Street Journal on Twitter was: "Traditional shapes rethought, twisted, expanded by Demna Gvasalia".

In his notes on the collection, Gvasalia insisted this was a "reimaging" of the work of the brand's founder, Cristobel Balenciaga, "a translation, not a reiteration. A new chapter".