Mar 6, 2016
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Paris fashion's rebel prince gives Balenciaga a mighty shake

Mar 6, 2016

Paris fashion's new rebel prince Demna Gvasalia took the venerable label Balenciaga by the lapels Sunday and gave it an almighty yank in his debut show for the brand.

The street-style iconoclast -- a refugee who fled war-torn Georgia as a teenager -- frogmarched the fashion house so beloved of Jackie Kennedy and the crowned heads of Europe into a less reverential age.

Balenciaga AW16/17 Paris Fashion Week - © PixelFormula

Coats and jackets were pulled down off shoulders and he gave some of his models bags you might do your discount Saturday shopping with.

With fashion royalty packing the front row for the most anticipated show of Paris fashion week, Gvasalia, 34, pulled no punches.

He brought everything but a hoodie from the oversized street look he pioneered at his achingly hip Paris brand Vetements, with 1980s-style anoraks, hacked about parkas and puffa jackets and classic French raincoats ripped down off the shoulder.

Yet in a deft nod to the Spanish house's traditions, he gave the oversized treatment to six classic Balenciaga tweed suits and dresses, pushing them out at the hips.

The stern grey and brown ensembles, paired with glasses and flat middle hair partings, gave their models something of the air of East German Stasi officers or Roald Dahl's villainous headmistress from his classic children's book "Matilda", Miss Agatha Trunchbull.

But there was lightness too in a series of 1980s-inspired dresses, some spliced together from three different floral patterns, with barbershop stripy tights.

Another blouse would not have looked out of place on Princess Diana, the decade's royal style icon.

- Second-hand shop chic -

Massive oversized overcoats held out as if by Victorian hoops went down the runway after rethought denim jackets and a man's shirt worn with one side out overhanging a long skirt, another Vetements' motif.

Balenciaga AW16/17 Paris Fashion Week - © PixelFormula

The second-hand shop chic continued with supersized skirts and sweaters teamed with white platform boots and fur and leather coats with trainers.

And watch out next autumn too for sunglasses with gigantic chains.

First reactions to the show were warm, but not ecstatic. Women's Wear Daily said although the experiment had worked, it was "a promising debut, but hold the canonization... The result was an interesting, often chic fusion of couture and street references."

The instant verdict of Christina Binkley of the Wall Street Journal on Twitter was "traditional shapes (were) rethought, twisted, expanded by Demna Gvasalia".

In his notes to the collection, Gvasalia insisted this was a "reimaging" of the work of the brand's founder, Cristobel Balenciaga, "a translation, not a reiteration. A new chapter."

Meanwhile, Celine, the French label that is a perennial darling of the fashion press, also went big, with beautifully cut oversized coats, jackets and long feminine silhouettes.

Designer Phoebe Philo said her show that set mellow yellows, whites and blues against black was about "finding the possibilities", although many critics saw a strong Japanese influence.

Women's Wear Daily described it as a "study in beautiful clothes. Clothes to live in, clothes to move in, clothes that signal to the world a highly evolved taste level, and allow fashion indulgence without frivolity."

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