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.