Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia's collection exuded a quirky exceptionalism at Paris Fashion Week this weekend. His models were both the traditional beauties as well as women who might be described as: striking, eccentric or jolie laide. His runway was diverse in both ethnicity and age. And his clothes are studiously unattractive, with their garish colors, oversize shapes and embrace of such aesthetically maligned brands such as Crocs.
Gvasalia embraces the oddball and the outsider and declares each an every one of them welcome on one of fashion's most rarefied runways.
His collection for spring was filled with pencil skirts in colorful bouclé, oversized striped shirts left half-untucked, trousers in a collage of fabrics or photo-printed in the seering orange and red of a sunset.
Coats were attached to coats like front-to-back conjoined twins. Handbags had their own little rain ponchos, and he collaborated with Crocs to created platform versions of the aesthetically challenged rubber clog.
Gvasalia relishes in elevating the banal and the poor into the realm of desirability and luxury. He believes there is an inherent beauty in the misbegotten. He not only remembered the forgotten, he celebrated them.
But now, have we moved beyond recognition and admiration into fetishizing? Is his self-conscious, pointed fascination with the most maligned products still moving the cultural conversation forward - or is it just giving people permission to not care, and to walk into brunch in grubby old slippers?
Perhaps we have a responsibility to try putting aside individuality to participate in the social contract of aesthetic civility. I wear shoes to brunch; you wear shoes to brunch. Fair?
For spring, Gvasalia has put a polish on Balenciaga. It's not so aggressively un-charming. And in return, he has given you Crocs.
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