The Mad, Maniacal and The Marvelous: Comme Des Garcons and Balenciaga

La Cite de la mode et du Design, Paris: BALENCIAGA and KAWAKUBO, together at last

Just happened to find this gallery space located on the Quai de Austerlitz, on the Seine river where they are currently refurbishing, like all of Paris, a new and improved river bank that is also now a fashion school. Where things get interesting, is after you see Balenciaga’s studied elegance, and concerted efforts to copy and be inspired by period dress, then you walk into the gallery where Kawakubo has taken most of these references, and placed them inside plastic bubbles, where we can consider both their period forms and their modernity. Its its his collection from 2011-12 recently created and now, ready for our consideration.

Balenciaga’s work comes off as classic or timeless, but, not as refreshing.  One wonders if he were still alive today,  would he be as irreverent as Monsieur K? Probably the chief reason this is so, is that every young designer tends to show an hommage to Mr. B. and even the recent collections we just saw, were full of his references for Fall 2012.

If you look at Balenciaga’s shape shifting dress, (*shown here) he was at his most brilliant and perhaps more prescient in his discovery of a dress essentially, “without borders”. It probably didn’t find its way to too many closets of the rich and famous but he nevertheless was working outside what was considered “safe” in this sort of creation.   Monsieur K, as we now refer to him, was always working outside those borders, yet at the same time, you can see he has a fascination for history and period forms witnessed by his touching upon the various periods in fashion history:  The crinoline, the Panier Skirt, the Overskirt “Anglaise” that was the fashion in the 18th century in France, and references to crochet, of the 1979s and even his own culture of “Kabuki” style wigs  on the forms; perhaps he is implying that indeed, our clothes are our costumes and we are just the players in the landscape of his imagination; it continues to be evocative and surprising today.  Now, Monsieur Balenciaga was at the heart of his creations, an extraordinary tailor.  His collection of men’s period waistcoats inspired his women’s coats, suits or dresses that were decidedly tailored.  Where the “folly” begins in his work is the evening wear, where the imagination and references of the Victorian era were refreshed for his nouvelle designs of the 1950s and 1960s.  The rest, you know.

The arresting combination of the two designers side by side is a great way to take a look at the extraordinary work that has created both the rules and, the rules to be broken in the world of fashion.  Even today, young designers are looking to these two polar opposites to discover just where the middle is as well as how to break the rules that are already broken.  Again.


The exhibit while not New, is worth taking a look at as it will be ending in September.

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