Few shows end with a standing ovation, but this season at Balenciaga the audience stood throughout. After a bizarre mishap in which benches collapsed and grounded several editors and photographers, a woman’s voice came on over the PA system and announced, in French and English, that this would be a standing show. For a designer who stops at nothing short of perfection, this actually had a humanizing effect on the show and on a usually stoic audience.
The blip in events brought to attention the importance of the moment: the clothes. Nicolas Ghesquière sent out a magnificent collection of redefined proportions, emphasizing a square-shaped jacket constructed in a geometric collage of shiny shantung color blocks. Underneath were super high-waisted and high-cut shorts that almost looked laminated, worn with silk georgette blouses that rose high, to the top of the neck. Enlarged pockets were emblazoned on stiff cotton or printed shirts with a distinctly horizontal shoulder.
The collection was, as always, an homage to Cristóbal Balenciaga, from the space created between the clothes and body to the drape-back black hat originally created in white and that was memorably captured by Irving Penn in 1967. The shoes were a further collage of wild and artificial animal-print wings and conical heels perched on a ball or cube.
But what makes Ghesquière so unique a designer is his ability to fuse the history of the house with his own collected references, from Kansai Yamamoto and Issey Miyake to Claude Montana and Memphis furniture—and still make it new and uniquely. Had the benches not fallen, I suspect the audience would still have risen to their feet and applauded innovation with a standing ovation.