At the moment it is extremely difficult to understand where fashion is going, especially considering the over-enthusiastic reviews of rather puzzling collections. Vêtements' Demna Gvasalia is for example focused on playing with a persistent "Martin Margiela goes shopping to a second hand/charity store" trope and getting amazing reviews while winning the title of fashion saviour.
Apparently, his secret is looking at the streets and blow up the silhouettes and shapes of the garments he sees around. This time he looked at corporate employees: he may have been spying upon the Kering ones since the group that owns Balenciaga now shares the same HQ with the fashion house on Paris' Rue de Sèvres.
Gvasalia proceeded to open the show with ankle-length overcoats slightly curved in at the waist reminiscent of Neil Tennant in the Pet Shop Boys' video for "West End Girls". The shoulder line was still sharp but, as a reaction to his massive squarish shoulders from the previous season, he opted for a sloping unpadded shoulder line, maybe a way to provide a cozier human silhouette that will allow the wearer to negotiate the lift and office doors with more ease and less embarrassment than the previous collection.
So tailoring-wise, Gvasalia is definitely working at finding better solutions for jackets and coats, but his interest in formalwear doesn't seem too genuine: the option when it came to trousers left something to be desired, since it went from super skinny hip hugging pants matched with shirts and jackets left open over bare chests, to ample and wide velvet trousers (mind you, one model had done away with trousers and seemed to be wearing only stockings…) - while his passion for streetwear and sportswear is still quite strong.
These two influences became clearer in the full-length padded coats, but there were also hoodies and tops layered one on top of the other and padded scarves in which he combined the Balenciaga logo with the Bernie Sanders red, white, and blue logo for the American presidential campaign, that he appropriated and reworked.
The timing - considering Donald Trump is getting sworn in on Friday - was great, and if this was a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that Kering's rival Bernauld Arnault, the chief of LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, met with the President-elect at Trump Tower in Manhattan a few days ago, it was cleverly done (surely Gvasalia wasn't being a socialist by reworking the Sanders logo for a luxury brand...).
Gvasalia also printed the Kering logo across sweatshirts or on the back of a puffer jacket, and you can bet that the fake Bernie Sanders and the Kering tops will become the next cult trend among the devout Gvasalia followers.
Many reviewers actually fell in love with the accessories, from the logo biker boots to the (rather clumsy but oh so hip and cool) sneakers with three stacked colourful layers of recycled soles (of the kind commuters may wear to walk fast and possibly run to catch thier bus or train); from the Balenciaga paper bags reworked in leather (a classic Margiela trick, but - critics explain us - this is postmodernism at its best…) to the handbags and clutches.
For this presentation the designer worked on diversity, including in the line-up middle age men to maybe prove that these clothes are not just for twenty-somethings with a model body (but will wealthy mature men opt for some of these clothes without looking slightly ridiculous?).
Yet, in many ways this second collection is again a new pastiche of Margiela, Cristóbal Balenciaga and Vêtements with glimpses of previous Balenciaga Creative Directors Nicolas Ghesquière and Alexander Wang. Time will tell if this hybrid of branded formalwear and sportswear really introduces a fashion revolution or if it offers only overpriced versions of everyday garments and accessories, in a nutshell cult hits but no timeless chic (but then again we live for the present and the future is an illusion and a mirage for most of us...).
For the time being, François-Henri Pinault smiled benevolently at Demna Gvasalia's take of the company logo, and while the group is doing well thanks to Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and a majority share of Alexander McQueen, results on the performance of Balenciaga will be released in February, so we will have to wait till then to see if this is a credible cult.
In the meantime, you can be sure that there will be a group of people who will not join the cult and will never wear the Kering emblazoned sweatshirts – the Brioni workers in Italy who have been paying a very high human cost for Kering's strategic mistakes. Or maybe the workers will do their own version of the tops, stealing the "Kering" logo and adding the verb "Sucks". That would be really "postmodernist" and you can bet Gvasalia would love a parody of a parody, wouldn't he?