A catwalk show as a love letter to Parisian style is an idea that has been done before, but not like this. Balenciaga’s designer Demna Gvasalia may have “fallen in love with Paris all over again,” but this was not the Paris of Robert Doisneau and lamplit bridges, of berets and Édith Piaf.
The show was held on a Sunday morning in Paris, but instead of piping in the scent of crusty baguettes to evoke the smell of the city streets, Gvasalia had the venue laid with fresh asphalt for an authentic urban fragrance. “There is no Balenciaga without Paris,” said Gvasalia after the show. “But this is modern Paris. What Balenciaga is now must be a modern version of Parisian style, not something from the 1950s or 1960s.”
Balenciaga is still chic. Cristóbal Balenciaga, the house’s founder, devised elegant silhouettes for outerwear – cocoon and opera coats with dropped shoulder seams – which remain house codes. But they were shown on the catwalk the way they might be in real life. Models wore their bags across the body, because that’s the way people wear them in real life, even if it means the straps cut across the lapels in a way that many designers wouldn’t countenance for a catwalk show. Others carried two or three shopping bags. It makes for an image less sleek and glamorous than a simple clutch bag. “I’m making fashion. So we want people to buy stuff,” shrugged Gvasalia.