THE REINVENTION OF BALENCIAGA
by Jeremy Danté
it’s interesting to look at the ways in which brands are redefined & mass marketed in today’s global industry of fashion- balenciaga being one of the hottest on the block. though this rise in temperature is nothing new for the french based, spanish heritage label, the american whose been cast in the role of game changer at the house definitely has our attention. fashion school drop out, alexander wang is the new installment at balenciaga and is beginning to show through the labels design direction and now through advertising. anyone who knows about re-branding or re-invention knows it’s not an overnight process. wang’s understanding of street style & the merging of high style have proven to be a successful level of execution that is completely necessary in today’s fashion market. as a designer, you wear many hats- and we’re not talking millinery. you have to be a public figure, a celebrity, an artist, a business man and a public speaker among many other smaller or sub-roles within larger roles, im sure. headed toward the lane of today’s design superstars, like marc jacobs or karl lagerfeld; wang understands the importance in balance of beauty & business, which makes him a noted, as well as valuable asset.
what’s even more alluring in the discussion of balenciaga are the after thoughts of it’s own page turning history. an abrupt ending of one chapter & a jaw-dropping entry into the next had us all wondering what went wrong. the awe inspiring star power & design innovation that balenciaga became through the creative vision of nicholas ghesquière was nothing short of fashion genius. since that abrupt ending, and wang’s installment, ghesquière has opened up about his departure. exposing creative frustrations & lack of business know-how at the label. all this and one has to wonder- how can creativity prevail? most certainly, the house of balenciaga was thrust into modernity, shit- the house was thrust into the future and ultimately resulted in other houses following suit. there once was a tumblr account, which conveniently vanished from cyberspace, but was hailed by fashion kids & interestingly appeared before the announced departure of ghesquière; it reminded us of how thoroughly the house and ghesquière really have set the trends, and how other fashion houses followed suit- even years after balenciaga put them on their runway.
the history of balenciaga as a house, as well as it’s founding father, cristobal balenciaga are very interesting to compare and contrast. cristobal himself shyed away from the spotlight, he had no interest in popularized aesthetics. in fact, he was the opposite of christian dior. dior’s new look was rivaled with balenciaga’s fluid lines- streamlined and linear are how his work has often been described. cristobal murdered the fashion scene, debuting new silhouettes that redefined the ways that women could dress up to feel beautiful. these days, fashion has become too political. i’ll use the example of american vogue- you understand that only key players will land the cover & through negotiation or business strategy. that’s what fashion is today, the creative component is looked at secondary. the business angle is what allows or distracts from how far a label will go. balenciaga, in my mind, didn’t seem to have this problem. an unmistakably powerful combination, ghesquière for balenciaga ushered in a new era where it became about the clothes again. much to our dismay, this happened despite ghesquière’s own unhappiness there. imagine, if his legacy can be birthed even through frustration, what would happen should he be in a space of calm? in an environment where he was free to create, without restraint. inarguable is the legacy of balenciaga and now is an interesting point of re-invention.
following wang’s somewhat demur, or thoughtfully controlled debut during the FW13/14 show season, we now get our first look at the label’s latest advertising campaign, wang’s first at balenciaga. i loved the collections darkness & appreciated the use of texture. the cracked leather, the simulation of woodgrain- it was all very chic, but very wang. i struggled with the idea that balenciaga would remain as innovative as it had been while under the guidance of ghesquière, but then again- would it be a new era if we were to stay in that lane? would these collections by wang hinge too closely the aesthetics of his own namesake new york collections? how well will both differ? as a fashion school drop out, could wang pull it off with technical knowledge and understanding of silhouette? does he understand the format thoroughly enough to break it? now looking at the campaign, it seems as though he’s moving into the right direction, but even through the lens of steven klein and the anonymous backshot of kristen mcmenamy- you’re still left wondering. it’s the kind of marketing mentality that indeed keeps us wondering.
it’s pulling us in, whether we like it or not because we want to find out what will happen next. comparable to chanel, since karl lagerfeld loves a good greyscaled image set, some might find the comparison too dull. for a name like wang or a name like balenciaga. wang’s 35 piece collection appeared a much more private mannered runway presentation. you felt the sense of change as you now sense in this campaign, yet you’re left longing for more. the hint of fluidity in silhouette makes me want to see more of the campaign; the palette for the collection was rather controlled as well- it leads me to believe that this elements are thought of. it’s all under control. the level of publicity given, the level of access given, the level of visibility seen from the clothes to the model. it’s all carefully under wraps. but will this prove to be a winning combination? how is the heritage and future both simultaneously being represented? no doubt, the ending of balenciaga is nowhere near- but now is where wang has to make it count. it seems as though he’s sticking to what he knows. black & white, it’s faultless. he’s played with texture heavily, but none of that is evident in the campaign, as yet. the referencing of the archives is present in the collection, but again, not in the campaign. how does this image represent that re-invention, that sense of ‘this is balenciaga’; more importantly, how does this create greater self distinction between balenciaga, a leader in innovation, and it’s other competitive counterparts? we’re watching and waiting, something tells me that something awaits behind that door.