The Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2016 ready-to-wear collection, the debut by new artistic director Demna Gvasalia, is presented as a series of couture attitudes transforming a modern, utilitarian wardrobe. The notion of “sophisticated” is toyed with, an abstract inspiration. What is sophisticated today? How to place Balenciaga’s legacy in a new context?
The collection is built around four couture “attitudes,” focusing on a manner of carrying oneself in clothing rather than silhouette. The mannerism is then translated into cut and construction, to discreetly but distinctly affect the deportment and psychology of the wearer.
The classic sylphlike couture pose – a profile of concave stomach, arched back and poised hips, a C-curve, a stereotypical couture attitude – gives a forward slant to torsos and skirts, manipulating perceptions of the body within. Basques and cocoon shapes create volume that abstracts from the body, a tension between fit and unfit, the body firmly held or free, suspended in fabric. These dichotomies are constantly at play, between the traditional poles of tailleur and flou.
Fastening and unfastening fundamentally alters the way the clothes sit, and their overall appearance. The impression of a suit is ruptured, when opened it is revealed to be a trompe l’oeil coat. Sportswear is given a false hauteur, the attitude of an opera coat, cut with cocooning volume. This is replicated in the revelation of wrapping, or garments that transform when worn via panels wrapped and buttons, which in turn transform perceptions of the woman inside.
A reimagining of the work of Cristobal Balenciaga – a wardrobe of absolute contemporaneity and realism imbued with the attitude of his haute couture. A translation, not a reiteration. A new chapter.