Paris Fashion Week

Upsizing Balenciaga

Designer Demna Gvasalia brings the oversized aesthetic from his label Vetements to fashion brand Balenciaga

PARIS • Demna Gvasalia, the newly installed designer of Balenciaga and an erstwhile underground phenomenon among Paris' most historic maisons, took the venerable fashion label by the lapels on Sunday and gave it an almighty yank in his debut show for the brand.

He pulled coats and jackets off shoulders and gave some of his models bags one might do one's discount Saturday shopping with.

After an inconsistent three-year stewardship under former creative director Alexander Wang, the house needed a reboot.

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

The Georgia-born, Antwerp- trained alumnus of Maison Martin Margiela and Louis Vuitton - a refugee who fled war-torn Georgia as a teenager - embraced street style and pioneered the oversized silhouette at his achingly hip brand Vetements.

On Sunday, he brought to Balenciaga 1980s-style anoraks, puffa jackets and classic French raincoats ripped off the shoulder. 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.

However, there was lightness, too, in a series of 1980s-inspired dresses, some spliced together from three floral patterns and paired with barbershop stripy tights. Another blouse would not have looked out of place on the late Princess Diana, the decade's royal style icon.

Massively oversized overcoats held up as if by Victorian hoops went down the runway after 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. 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 his was a "reimaging" of the work of the brand's founder, Cristobel Balenciaga, "a translation, not a reiteration. A new chapter".


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Upsizing Balenciaga'. Print Edition | Subscribe