What has happened to Balenciaga?

Nobody writes bad fashion reviews anymore. I haven’t read any in a very long time. You may have a feeling that person writing a piece about particular collection wasn’t left speechless after seeing the show but you won’t read true words of criticism. The worst review you can find will lack of excitement. It will be… neutral.

I’m not writing reviews. Thank God, I don’t need to. And I can, totally freely, express my own thoughts about things I see. I prefer to write about things I really like, things that inspire or move me somehow. If I find something really uninteresting, I don’t feel the need to talk about it. I leave it and usually forget.

We are almost two months after the end of fashion week season. The craziness in gone, now SS15 campaigns and editorials featuring new collections are being shot so we can be sure the everything we saw in September and October will be talked again soon. But this time in a slightly different context. I had idea to write this text a few days after the beginning of Paris Fashion Week but I waited with that until today.

It’s not a secret that London Fashion Week and Paris Fashion Week are my favourite. Each season I’m waiting impatiently to see new collections of my favourite designers. In Paris, Balenciaga was always in my top 3 of the most awaited shows. I have to admit that in the past for me it was Balenciaga… and then ‘the rest’. Well, it was. I didn’t like absolutely all Balenciaga collections designed by Nicolas Ghesquière but every time he was bringing something new, something interesting, he was pushing the boundaries and challenging fashion. He was taking Cristobal’s heritage to the next level and he was doing it really, really well. When Ghesquière left Balenciaga and Alexander Wang was introduced as a new creative director I didn’t know what to expect. I guess, we all didn’t know. I quite liked Wang for his own designs but I have to be honest – I was sceptical if Wang and Balenciaga will be such a great pairing.

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Wang’s first collection for Balenciaga didn’t steal my heart. I thought he played safe which I found a good move. He went through Balenciaga archives and decided to pay a tribute to Cristobal’s heritage with his debut collection for the house. I still remember my first thought after seeing AW13 collection ‘how much Wang is in Balenciaga or how much Balenciaga is in Balenciaga’. I was also surprised that entire collection was black and white. I thought that I need to wait a bit longer, see what will happen next before I make a judgment. The SS14 season arrived and it was time for Wang’s second collection. This time it was all about whites and pastels, a small touch of black and some flower prints. It was a bit sporty, a bit feminine, a bit elegant. Again, it was ok. But only ok. And ok for Balenciaga was way too little. I decided to wait until AW14 collection will be revealed. I remember watching live stream on March morning. I liked it. I was happy to see some colour, there were some great coats, nice dresses and trousers with zips and my favourite leather dress of the season. In my opinion it was a good collection but I also felt that good is not enough for Balenciaga.

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I know that one of the reasons why Alexander Wang was chosen as a creative director for Balenciaga was to make brand more ‘weareable’. For some people at Balenciaga Ghesquière’s vision was too experimental and not so easy to address in a daily life. Well, I could argue with that but… let’s leave it for now. For years Balenciaga was seen not just as a fashion brand but the house which operates on the certain level of creativity and luxury, the house which stands out, the house that everyone looks at – not necessary to copy but definitely to be inspired. When I look at recent Balenciaga collections I don’t feel that it’s like that anymore.

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This season I wasn’t waiting impatiently to see Balenciaga collection. This time show was scheduled for the evening and when I was observing the entire frenzy around it I couldn’t avoid the impression that it’s not about fashion anymore. What was news of the day was Kayne West, Kim Kardashian and their daughter North presence at Balenciaga show. I don’t want to sound mean (although I’m aware that I might) but after seeing the collection one of my thoughts was ‘well, actually I’m not surprised’. I didn’t get this Matrix vibe with sporty, futuristic and soft touch (pastels again). Silhouettes were boring and even use of interesting fabrics didn’t save this collection. There were a few nice pieces but 4 interesting looks in 33-piece collection wasn’t enough for me. There was nothing moving, nothing breathtaking, nothing that would stay in my memory when the show is over, nothing I would love to see in store, nothing I would like to try on, nothing I would like to buy and (that is the worst) nothing that would makes me to wait for the next Balenciaga collection with the same curiosity and excitement I used to hold in the past.

I’m not saying that Alexander Wang is bad designer. All I say is that I’m afraid that this relationship is not the best we could imagine. There are two interesting individuals but not necessary when they are together.

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The fact that Balenciaga collections don’t get the same acclaim and don’t cause the same excitement anymore finds its reflection in their limited exposure in the magazines. It is the editors’ and stylists’ decision what looks (and from which brands) to choose to illustrate the story. If they don’t like the collection, they won’t be keen to present it to the public. Of course, there were editorials featuring pieces from recent Balenciaga collections but brand’s representation in press was much more limited comparing to the past and time when ‘Balenciaga was cool’.

(Photos: style.com)

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