The fashion specialist’s version of a blind taste test: given a lineup of new garments, could you identify the designer and brand from sight? There are those whose eye is so trained, five strides away and: “Is that [blank] t-shirt Gaultier?” Yes. I told you the true fashion kids are nerds. Some designers make it easy for us, with work so distinctive that, even when innovative, we know it must be cut from their cloth. Here are four such designers from day three of PFW:
Cristóbal Balenciaga is widely considered as the master couturier of the second half of the 20th century. Even his designer contemporaries, like curmudgeonly Coco, conceded to his supremacy. The same could be argued for the house Balenciaga’s current designer, Nicolas Ghesquière, who has been exercising a Cristóbal-worthy intellectual precision of vision at the house since 1997. Ghesquière makes fashion that is simultaneously leading-edge—only ever trendy in the setting of them, always experimenting with new textile technology—while firmly grounded in the house archives.
Balenciaga clothes take up space. They are conceptual, but the idea always starts from construction. Balenciaga’s three adjectives: fluid, immaculate, sculptural. In his 40-plus years of Paris couturing, Balenciaga never gave a press interview; his clothes spoke for themselves. Ghesquière gives us words: this season is sprung from the stiff ruffles of a 1960s Cristóbal gown and the mythology of antiquity. It is “the most sensual collection I’ve ever done,” said Ghesquière, but he didn’t need to say it. From the opening molded bra top and trouser ensemble, our erections were ignited. Balenciaga for Spring 2013 is instinctually sexy, viscerally stimulating. Seriously, this collection makes me so horny.
Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz may be the most adorable man in fashion. Funny, his clothes are never cute. Even when the motif is the bow, as in this Spring 2013 set, Elbaz makes it sharp and assertive. The collection was classic Alber—create in the image you aspire to.
Rick Owens this season looks like it landed from a utopian otherworld. Owens said “Island” and “Gustav Klimt” and here we can see the Jugendstil leader’s ladies bathing in an alien water retreat. Klimt, who is celebrating his 150th birthday this year with numerous exhibitions across Europe, took the eternal woman as his primary subject—the female form, in its close-to-nature ideals, the goddess and the vixen, the mother and the serpent swimmer. Klimt’s women were in Owens in the hair, the gold, and in the long skirts that clung as if wet from the sea. The artist’s image too, smocked with hair horizontal, appears to have been an influence.
Carven is our new favorite relaunched heritage brand and that’s thanks to designer Guillaume Henry who is cropping and cutting out of preppy basics in signature curves that have almost become a logo.