Friday, February 29, 2008

Consider This The Backlash

A couple of days ago, Balenciaga showed its Fall 08 RTW collection in Paris. I considered reviewing it until I realized that, as far as Balenciaga is concerned, I've got a major bone to pick and I'm just not going to be able to move on till I speak my mind.

I recognize that I am in a miniscule minority - and I'm really not the kind of person who likes to dwell on the things she doesn't personally appreciate - but I feel compelled to write that I am one of the 10 yahoos who absolutely loathes that (now iconic) Balenciaga Spring 2008 RTW collection. Those awful gladiator sandals, those over-constructed, puffy-shouldered florals. I do not see how they're even remotely wearable - much less as an ensemble - for your average (nay, above average) woman. I mean, there are about 3 practical shapes in the entire runway collection - and they're all in pastel satin!

I've been trying to warm up to this collection for months now. Every magazine I open, lauds its engineering and the technology that underpins it and the beautiful, contradictory shapes. Well, I'm sorry, I don't care. I have no idea what these clothes cost. I'm sure it's a hideous fortune - hideous being the operative word. I don't care if it looks just like what everyone speculates Mr. Balenciaga himself would have designed, were he still alive today. I don't care if it's designed as a clever play on fashion as armor. If it manages to make even Jennifer Connelly seem wan, angry and ugly, it's just not worth the cash. (I do realize the photog had something to do with that...)

Having unburdened myself so snittily, I'll revisit Ghesquière's latest offering and get back to y'all. In truth, on quick review, it's infinitely lovelier. Something tells me someone's gonna give me what for, over this post. I'm a smidgy scared, really.


  1. I wasn't really aware much of Balenciaga except for the footwear I would see on the Olsen Twins (I secretly admire their sense of style). So it wasn't until the Spring 2008 collection that I saw what he was doing. At first I thought they were ugly too, but then when you think of it as a designer, I think he's brilliant and he makes it seem so easy.

    But everyone has their own taste. I used to not like his stuff, but personally I love those gladiator knee high sandals, they're funky and different. I'm starting to see why everyone is falling all over themselves for his work because it's different, it's not the yet another strapless gown, or draping blouse, or petticoat. He creates shapes out of the norm and I find it refreshing. Eventhough I'd probably never wear his stuff because a) I don't have the money, b) Won't have the occasion. But I still like his work :)

    Kind of like Hussein Chalayan, he also designs from somewhere else not on this planet for the last couple of collections (c-r-a-z-y stuff).

    For me it's the Japanese designers, I don't get their clothes and I find them hideous. But they're always complimented for being original. I dunno, but if you checked out Comme Des Garçons last year....what was up with the clown outfits?!?! At least Balenciaga would be able to sell his stuff. Clowns, man... CLOWNS!

  2. "..wan, angry, and ugly." I remember that photo!

    Ghesquiere seems to be going through a molding phase (spring and fall) where he is captivated by using sculpting materials (or materials that can be sculpted) to make inflexible lines. Which is fine if wearability is not the primary motive. Kind of like an art school project where you make a dress out of Semtex.

    Still, this brings up a larger question: How does this differ from collections that get critically panned? (Not Dahlia's clowns, that's too obvious.) This is when you realize that what you see is not what you get. It's far more complicated than that.

    I think you should write (a rather extended essay!) about when fashion started becoming "artistic" and sacrificed wearability for statement, "technique," and "Hey kids, look what I can do with foam!"

  3. Dahlia: Thanks for your well-considered comments. I was chatting with someone in a store today who echoed your sentiment about the knee-high sandals. They obviously do have a following. And, of course, you're totally right. For a change, we're seeing something out of the norm that isn't so insane it's clown-wear. I don't remember that CDG collection - though how i could forget is beyond me. I'm going to refresh my memory.

    Suzanna: You and Dahlia seem to be on the same page. OK, as art school project, I get it. But how does that translate into making zillions of dollars? And, I love your question about what distinguishes a crazy panned collection from a lauded avant-garde one. One of us should write that post. Something tells me it should be you! K

  4. "... when fashion started becoming "artistic" and sacrificed wearability for statement, "technique," and "Hey kids, look what I can do with foam!"

    This is precisely the issue that I am struggling with in my dissertation. I could go on but I won't.

  5. I think critics who praise or pan a collection is based on their experience in the industry. These aren't just some mindless critics, they do their homework and they talk to people involved in the industry that readers will never meet.

    As for getting crazy designs on the catwalk and still make money, well that's going more into the marketing department. Designers don't really make money off of their runway looks believe it or not. Their make their dineros with perfume and designer bags because those are the things that truly sell to the mass consumers. RTW and Couture are for the ultra rich only really. From what I've read, the few $10,000 dresses they sell are few indeed, but they already know not to count on those to make a profit.

    Fashion shows are just that, shows. I don't know what high end buyers are looking for exactly for their stores, Saks could be looking for one thing, Holt Renfrew could be looking for something else. It's not until you hit those stores that you'll know.

    Going back to Balenciaga, I'm pretty sure that they make their money with the bags and the shoes, no doubt about it.

  6. OK, so I guess it's Riz who's going to have to write the post about art projects gone mainstream :-)

    Dahlia: I've heard that the brands make their money on the mass products, and it's true I'm more likely to run into some lady wearing the gladiator sandals than the constructed floral top. I didn't realize that RTW sold in such miniscule quantities, however. Thanks for the info.

    On the topic of the critics, I think you are quite generous! I'd love to believe that they're basing their commentary on quantifiable (if insider)factors. I just don't know that I do.

  7. I don't think you're obligated to jump on the Balenciaga Bandwagon! Hooray for Opinions! I'm glad you said what you thought.

  8. It's a valid opinion about the unwearability of Balenciaga, but I'm pretty sure that it's not one of Mr Ghesquiere's concerns. His show notes said something about being inspired by classic cars, with the molded lines and contours, and it certainly doesn't translate into something the average woman could (or should) wear, but I do think there's a place for crazy art project fashion. The Isabella Blow's and Daphne Guinesses of the world may be the only ones wearing it, but it's interesting to look at, and Balenciaga makes most of its money on bags anyway.

  9. I Heart: I totally hear you. I don't think the wearability factor is at the top of Mr. G's list. And, strangely, since I issued this rant I'm feeling a little less hostile about the collection. I even saw a (more wearable) homage to it somewhere this week and felt that it was a nice riff on a crazy theme. Thanks for your comment. K