Models, Bottles and Balmain

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  • Bodice at Balmain Fall/Winter '16

    Leandra brought up the bodice most recently in Paris.
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Leandra Medine | March 3, 2016

Welcome to Club Rousteing

Kendall! Gigi! Jourdan! Karlie! Joan! Rosie! I almost didn’t see the clothes. But would that have made a difference, anyway? We know what we’re getting with Olivier Rousteing’s Balmain. Shoulders will be pointed, strong (and sometimes so big that you wonder if you’ll fit through a door frame) and waist lines will be narrow. Skirts will act as bodices — if they don’t frame the natural curves, they will no doubt create them.

But I’m left with two conflicting thoughts at the bottom line.

On the one hand, I wonder if Balmain, the fashion manifestation of what the Kardashian empire has conditioned popular culture to expect of itself (if at first that was relatability, which I do believe it was, now it is a lot of hype! Hype! Hype! Nothing!) is challenging the progression of fashion, an industry that has historically rejected mediocrity.

You barely see the clothes through the smoke and mirrors of a deluge of knit pants and padded robes that will look good on exactly seven people. You contemplate the elaborate bead work on some of those metallic numbers, the tassels and fringe that make you want to dance but that scare you when you think of the looming price tag. You think about what it took to make the garment. Where we’re seeing it. What it will take to own the garment. So you wonder, is any of it worth it?

If it’s not, then why are we here? Why are they there?

But you shake it off because that’s the natural mechanism to employ. And besides, it’s fun! Look at all these big name models. If you don’t recognize one, you’re sure to assume she’s something. If she’s not, she’s about to be. So here, here for building careers! That’s worth a cheers.

But from the perspective of an onlooker — whether in attendance to critique the show or to share it — the experience becomes far too overwhelming. And maybe this is a larger comment on the industry, but I know that I sat there wondering: how am I supposed to comprise a compelling opinion that is both baked and ready to share while the event is in motion? That’s just not how my brain works. Process is set in place for a reason, right? So that you can process. I could have come up with something to amount for the green suede, the delicate pink, the really elaborate and frankly beautiful fringe dresses and ruffle body suits that look like supremely elevated, feminine cowboy pants but better.

But I didn’t want to miss Kendall’s blonde head. Gigi’s second look. The appearance of one Karlie Kloss after a fairly quiet runway season.

So what does that say about me?

Or about what I think you expect of me and our coverage?

Are we honing in on the right things? What constitutes the “right” things? I could wax poetic on the social implications of a stretch knit for days on end if I must, but that would get boring to write, so it can’t be lastingly entertaining to read.

Maybe this boils back down to the same obstacle I faced in New York. Among the brief but refreshing and delightful tinges of hope that will roll out and remind me why I do this, the question of purpose will no doubt confront me by its lack of an answer: Why are we here? What are we doing? And where’s the purpose?

Photographs via Vogue Runway; collage by Emily Zirimis. 

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  • http://insertwth.com/ Denisse

    I’m not a fashion expert, but I think the general sense of “why am I here” comes from the fact that everything is just recycling itself. None of the designs are actually changing, and every season the designers are just coming out with the same stuff. No one is creating something that makes you go: “wow”. It’s the same with the movies, in my opinion. Hollywood is just falling back on books and re-making movies from years ago because they don’t know what to come up with.

    Everyone just thinks that if they repackage the same stuff over and over, people will buy it. But in reality, people will feel bored and get a feeling that things have gotten stale.

    • Leandra Medine

      You know, I’ve thought a ton about that — but then you think about something that’s good. That works. Do you want it to change over and over again? The genius of a house like Dries or even much more recently Gucci (where the clothes have becme so trendy, but aren’t changing all that much every season — but still reeling you in) is that they don’t actually change — on the contrary, they solidify your confidence in your purchases because you know you’re not going to feel profoundly dated in six months when new clothes are out. If you buy a cutting knife and know it works perfectly for your purposes, do you care if they roll out new versions in different colors?

      • http://insertwth.com/ Denisse

        I completely agree with you on that. I even gravitate for the same “basic” pieces. It’s human habit. However, I was reading an article – more related to digital products like software – about the problems that happen when companies try to change the “user experience” of a product. There’s a quote from the article that goes: “For all of the debates, a product that fails to dramatically change is one that will certainly be bypassed by the relentless change in how technology is used. We do not often consider the reality that most new products (and services) we enjoy are often quite similar to previously successful products, but with a new user experience.”

        In relation to fashion, one of two things is happening: 1. Houses are changing the styles very drastically and people are rejecting those changes, or 2. Fashion brands aren’t changing enough and buyers are gravitating towards competition. And eventually you won’t be satisfied with just new colors of the cutting knife. Instead you’ll want a knife that is more ergonomic, or provides you with a new experience. Even if ultimately, they both remain just that, cutting knives. I think brands are focusing too much at times on presentations and spectacle, and less on the clothes themselves.

        Long post, sorry!! (here’s the article if you have 30 minutes to read about changing user experience of a product: https://medium.com/learning-by-shipping/why-the-heck-can-t-we-change-our-product-d88533b5bc2d#.rfs1lzuif)

  • hedonisima

    Can’t agree more with Leandra.. But anyway ,Why Gigi has brown wig and Kendal is blonde??!! ;)) Is that all there is ,Is that all there iiiiisss 🎤🎤 This changes are happening too fast and I guess I cant keep up
    Ps. Love U

  • Aizeboje Isabemon Monday
  • claritt

    I agree that fashion in some way should evolve. There are things that are undoubtedly Chanel for example, time and time again, but they change season to season. I feel that Balmain is always the same thing, ESPECIALLY since the Kardashians came into the spotlight. Tight, curvy, and quite frankly way over priced. Whats the point? Well, i’m fairly certain you love what you do. And if there was nothing (new) to be said about this show, then thats not a reflection on you. Its not your job to create collections. I think this report was everything it needed to be; Honest.

  • allie

    Agree with your thoughts here. I think there’s something troubling when the most newsworthy/reported aspects of a show is that two models swapped hair colors. The clothing here is classic Balmain, but classic doesn’t always mean good. Here, it’s just boring.

  • Alex

    These clothes are beautiful but, i feel like Balmain has become a little over-saturated and one note.

  • Living Paula Blog

    Such lovely pieces!

    Paula- http://www.livingpaula.com

  • http://quotes6.com quotes6.com

    I liked the Balmain collection.

    Come up with something radically new is very difficult, especially in clothes, and whether or not? Our world is evolving in technology and I think it is very good!

  • ashleigh jones

    Fashion is a form of creation, and to be on the world renowned fashion week stage, I expect to be wowed. In art we are amazed by a new perspective in life, a new voice that we haven’t heard before but wish we had, a surprise if you will, and that level of creativity is what should be continued to be expected in fashion as well. Balmain is a fashion house, why bring into the world something we have all seen before, I just don’t feel i was offered a new argument on beauty. Delpozo, for example, made me think, about what we could be wearing the future, about the conversation of the fashion cycle but how that can be talked about simultaneously with a clause of the new. I felt refreshed and excited.
    And the ole’ switcharoo of the two girls and their hair colours…. i mean really? For me this just solidifies what Bridget Foley of WWD was raging about! I am sick of these social media marketing ploys, and i refuse to click the bait.

  • Aggie

    Definitely nothing revolutionary BUT I have two arguments that could defend this collection. First, I know that these famous models still have a very unattainable body for most of us, however I can appreciate that a designer actually celebrates and accentuate curves: I despise the Kardashian empire but I like that they’re not afraid to show their body (not talking about prominent cleavage here) and I think that a lot of people can relate to them in that sense. Secondly, I think that the fact that these models are recognisable makes it a bit more fun because frankly I do agree twith the fact that you are here to see the clothes but sometimes isn’t it nice to match the clothes with a face that doesn’t look like a depressed zombie? Maybe this is not high fashion but it will certainly appeal to many consumers so if the aim is to make money rather than show genuine art then they have succeeded.

    • ahnah

      I think the question is are they if they arre really apelling to right public, all this smoke and mirrors gigi/kendall is the consumer of a line with the price tag of balmain? Wouldn’t people that have the money to pay for balmain prefer a line that it’s a little bit more original?

  • http://talesonsilk.com/ Tales On Silk

    I wonder how, what Balmain did at this show or what Kanye did at his is different from the Chanel Brasserie or Chanel supermarket few seasons back. What Chanel did was also more of a performance, it was about the models – Cara, Kendall.. so, how is it different when Chanel does something like this when compared to Balmain/Kanye? I am geniunely trying to understand your point of view, because I have been also been thinking about this a lot myself. In fact, I am pretty tired of fashion weeks being about instagram, performance than about clothes and the characters behind them and what they make you feel or think. Alexander Mcqueen always put on show – before the heady days of social media – but for some reason, the focus was never off the clothes. So, what changed? Or what did they do diffferent?