To much anticipation, Demna Gvasalia delivered another season at Balenciaga, the designer reinforcing the message that has run through the menswear and previous womenswear collections: that this is a time for power dressing and that garments should and will make the wearer walk tall and cool – a welcome message of confidence in uncertain times.
And time itself was an integral component within the Autumn/Winter 2017 collection, no less because the fashion house hits its 100-year mark this year. Firm in the stance that to deliver pieces that felt distinctly 'today' he must look to the archives, Gvasalia took his cue from the styling in Balenciaga’s vintage look books, in which models would hold their coats to one shoulder; thus, making a case for the side-fastened jacket, which dominated the opening exits of the show in tweeds, brocade, leopard print and leather, and in pea coat, duffle, puffa and parka styles. For those less inclined to treat everyday life as a runway, however, the designer was clear to confirm that the coats could also be worn the 'normal' way, too.
While the new way to wear outerwear may have ruled early on in Instagram and Twitter feeds, fast forward to the final exits for the absolute stand-out moments of the show. A century of the House of Balenciaga couldn’t go unmarked, and Gvasalia delivered big by way of nine couture dresses, acting as somewhat of a conduit in homage to Cristobal Balenciaga’s original 1950s archive designs. As directional now as they were then, Gvasalia resisted the temptation to put his own twist on the gowns, paying deference to his master’s voice by adding just a little signature twist in the addition of large pockets and giant laundry-style bags.
As ever with a Gvasalia show, there were many tiers of storytelling at work. Yes, the centenary was key, but midway through there was much more of the designer himself, revealed as art imitating life by way of twisted tweed or car mat-style pencil skirts, sports jackets-cum-shirts and a fleet of ditsy floral dresses. The knife-heel spandex stocking boot was back and as vivid as last season – particularly in orange paired with a monochrome couture gown – and there was a new iteration: the scarf-wrapped stiletto. Bags came in all shapes and sizes, from the super-huge to the sports bag, top handle, satchel and clutch.
A collection that was as much about wearability as it was about arming the Balenciaga woman with a sense of nonchalant confidence, Gvasalia skillfully steers the house into another 100 years of history-making fashion.