Balenciaga: dedicated to WFP
Balenciaga themed its latest show around the World Food Programme (WFP) showing a range of gear with that organization’s logo in a show staged with great zest in a remote part of north Paris near the city’s largest area of homeless refugees.
The actual show set was hard to beat. A 20-meter-high faux snow mountain on which was painted huge graffiti: Meter high letters reading Balenciaga, Power of Love, Speed or Enter. The colors of this snowboarders' dream mountain reproduced in printed dresses, taut tanks, techy stretch tops and stocking/boots.
This event also marked the first season that the house’s creative director Demna Gvasalia presented a unified men’s and women’s show. The key moment was a series of long coats and Cristobal’s “Basque” jacket that flared out below the hip: composed Scottish checks, superbly tailored, faintly saintly, and somehow very Balenciaga. He even sent out a men’s shirt with a Paris phone number, which turned out to be a Balenciaga hotline which involved a replicant-like voice quizzing you on your shoe size and height, favorite color etc.
Gvasalia’s opening ideas were all slim-line: micro zebra print cocktails for gals; lean, long, sharp angle shoulder jackets for men. However, as the show progressed, the clothes gained volume and quantity. One swaggering SWAT figure had about five garments on him: from a rock fan black T-shirt and WFP sweatshirt to a plaid grunge rocker shirt and a massive fringed black leather rodeo jacket.
Oodles of humongous parkas, the best in faded Stewart tartan, the sort a snowboarder would don for the slopes inside this show space. Made in extra, extra, extra large. All told, another savvy meeting of Balenciaga’s historic DNA – volume and modernist materials – with Demna’s gutsy street style, with a laudable political message.
The house’s partnership with WFP “uses fashion to engage global consumers around the issue of hunger and awareness” of the humanitarian group’s work in emergencies, Balenciaga explained. Balenciaga has also made a $250,000 donation to WFP. According to the house’s release the number of people suffering from hunger increased by 38 million in 2016 to 815 million, pushed by conflict and climate change.
It’s a subject Gvasalia personally knows about, seeing as his own family was forced out of his native Abkhazia region of Georgia due to that country’s war with Russia when he was still a child.
“We consider this partnership with The World Food Programme to be an important step in making fashion useful in a different way and supporting good causes with our products whenever possible,” said the designer in a release emailed just as the show started.
For evidence of hunger one did not need to go far. Returning into Paris over the main ring road, one passed a small camp of refugees in a Sunday downpour. So it was admirable to encounter a designer like Demna who has not forgotten from whence he came.
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