PFW A/W '11 Report: Balmain

04 March 2011

The big gossip this Paris Fashion Week (aside from Galliano updates): how will Balmain look now that the label's stylist Emmanuelle Alt has given up her relationship with the brand to step up as Editor of French Vogue? Alt is so truly the ultimate Balmain woman - a sexy Parisian rock chic with a sharp, leggy, messy edge, the perfect walking advert for Cristophe Decarnin's spiky sexy styles.

Today's show was instead styled by minimalist Melanie Ward. How would that translate? As it turned out: half minimalist, half maximalist.

The opening outfits were a shock to the system - black and white minimalist tailoring. A bit of a different look for a Balmain show.
 
But just as we were thinking head designer Christophe Decarnin might have undergone some kind of brain transplant; the show erupted into a parade of glam rock gold brocade; with miltary braiding twisted around to make mini shiftdresses that grazed the thighs, tuxedo jackets and skinny trousers. Next came a gold lamé bibbed shirt with silver-foil trousers.
 
They were followed by modest staples - unheard of from Decarnin - elegant, wide leg white crepe evening trousers worn with sliced, minimalist vests.
 
And from minimalist to maximalist - shirts covered with extravagant embroidery and tiny indian mirrors -  ethnic but still glam rock. Massive-furry shouldered capes on top of looks added an extra layer of shaggy shearling.

Chainmail pieces, dresses and long split skirts, that looked like they would weigh a ton, hung on braces.

Silver hologram fabric jeans, were shot-through with rainbow irridescence. The finale was a parade of leather tuxedo jackets; electric blue, gold, and mustard yellow.

Ward and Decarnin may not quite have found their rhythm yet. But the mix of modest elegance and total glam rock tuxedo dressing will give Balmain a new appeal. Women who like the sharp Balmain cut will still be able to find it, only now with a pared-back elegance for first time. Balmain die-hards who like their tiny mini-skirts and the sexiest jeans in fashion, will still be able to get those too.

Decarnin makes really high fashion clothes look casual and cool, for that distinctively Parisian girl chic.

Looks like that Parisian girl is now growing up a bit, and that's a very good thing.
 
- by Melanie Rickey in Paris

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