Balenciaga S/S 2010 / PFW / Day two

"Back to my roots." Spoken by a designer, those words can be code for plum out of ideas. Or they can indicate intense professional self-awareness and confidence in its expression. The latter won out in the collection Nicolas Ghesquière sent out for Balenciaga on Thursday. Before his show, Ghesquière recalled the comment of a friend who had seen some of the clothes. “You’ve gone out on some of the branches of the trees,” she said of recent seasons, including fall’s ode to the French high style. “Now, it’s growing back.”

Back to those audacious roots, in a dazzling display of chic that flaunted the core rock ’n’ roll bravado and edgy futurism while looking plenty new. So bring on the racy shapes, the splicing and dicing, the techno fabrics, the killer footwear, which, made from compressed strips of multicolored leather, set a new standard for the genre. The news came mostly in Ghesquière’s daring fusion of high-tech and what he called an “ecological vocabulary,” vegetable dyes and intricately crafted leathers (handwoven by a Parisian textile genius), which made slick work of artisanal skill. Using this counterpoint, Ghesquière achieved different moods within a highly focused collection. His hooded, monastic urban warriors looked fabulously grim, but were followed in rapid succession by girls who wore their street edge more prettily, either in zip-front color-blocked shifts or leather “porcupine” pleated skirts. Another hybrid: would-be au sauvage leather tunics, perked up over kicky prints, also in leather.

Throughout, the craft on display approached haute levels, which Balenciaga’s commercial side, backed by the wealth of Gucci Group resources, must now adapt for viability off the runway — without excessive trading down. “Luxury [today] doesn’t mean anything, except in the quality of execution,” Ghesquière said. Only half right, Nicolas. Luxury also comes via distinctive, daring design of an increasingly rare sort in fashion’s current me-too landscape. He nailed both.

© by WWD / Photos by Giovanni Giannoni

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