Balenciaga Winter 2021

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It would have been one heck of a lookbook shoot had Balenciaga’s models actually been to Paris, New York, Venice, Shanghai, London, Brussels, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Athens, Moscow, Sydney, Rome, San Francisco, Belize, Chicago, Cairo and Agra, home to the Taj Mahal. (And incidentally, if only tourists dressed in such a cool fashion.)

“We Photoshopped everything,” Demna Gvasalia said over the phone, explaining that he wanted to express nostalgia for travel after more than a year of coronavirus restrictions – and hope that the skies will open up soon.

He also wished to transmit good vibrations with a “feel good” clip rather than yet another fashion video, so he mashed together images “scientifically proven” to lift moods – people hugging or dancing, adorable baby animals, dramatic skies – all set to stirring music. “I thought it was a good moment to explore another way of brand expression which is not product-related,” he mused.

Balenciaga Winter 2021

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A strong-minded designer who frequently bends and reshapes the fashion system according to his latest thinking, Gvasalia recently swapped the order of Balenciaga’s pre-collection and main collection. In practical terms, it makes the former a bit more casual, street-oriented and easy-to-wear and the latter more elevated and conceptual/elegant, as he is able do more fittings.

Outerwear is the star of this winter effort, appearing in the guise of a retro floral dress, a track jacket and even a wedding gown. Jeans printed on stretch velvet pants figure among other trompe l’oeuil garments. “I just love certain ways of twisting fashion, and from season to season, I’m exploring that further and deeper,” Gvasalia shrugged, pointing out that floral or dotted dresses of the ilk Margaret Thatcher might have worn come in leather and trench-coat fabrics. “Like what you see is not what you get.”

Gvasalia keeps hammering the same nails – oversized proportions and certain streetwear tropes – yet always finding new ways to make them interesting. To wit: He added fabric stoles to many looks, including hoodies and bomber jackets, giving them a glamorous allure.

The designer is readying a couture collection for Balenciaga – its first in more than 50 years – and he’s crossing fingers he’ll be able to present it live in Paris this July. In the meantime, it’s “seeping through to other collections in terms of attitude,” he confessed.

Kudos to Gvasalia for showing that luxury fashion can be eco-friendly (90.6 percent of fabrics this season are sustainable); entertaining (the video and lookbook are proof enough); wryly funny (dressy suits and tuxedoes are stenciled to read Balenciaga Apparel Rentals), and political, too.

Growing up in Georgia during Soviet times, Gvasalia said his father would not allow him to wear pink or red, as those colors were deemed inappropriate for boys.

And so that hoodie and the matching stole are available in bright pink and stamped with the signature lettering of a famous casual brand with one letter changed: GAY, it reads, with Pride written smaller underneath. The male model wearing it is posed in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

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