Balenciaga’s Fall 2017 menswear collection channelled two American icons: Senator Bernie Sanders and the fictional Michael Scott from The Office. While the collection focused on corporate-wear with broad-shouldered power suits and double-breasted duster coats, there were also campaign trail comfort clothes like pullover hoodies and windbreakers in red, white and blue. Although the corporate and political motifs that dominated the collection were shown in Paris last week, they may speak more to American values.
Designer Demna Gvasalia payed homage to the creator of the fashion house, Cristobal Balenciaga, through expert tailoring. Slim fit, low rise trousers styled with sloped-shoulder blazers sans shirts gave modern proportions to the traditional suit. Grays, browns and blacks kept the collection within office dress code. While Michael Scott may not have been an inspiration for the collection, the central focus on office attire can’t help but nod in his direction.
He wore a long duster with sneakers and a suit before it walked down Balenciaga’s runway.
Gvasalia not only displayed the corporate style through silhouettes and textiles, but also took a more literal approach in branding the Kering logo, Balenciaga’s parent company, on overcoats and sweatshirts. The Balenciaga logo was also redesigned to mirror that of Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign — instead of the word Bernie, Balenciaga appears above white and red curved lines with a smaller 2017 below. Gvasalia perhaps has an a habit of taking familiar logos and making them his own. Just look to his DHL and UPS uniform inspired collection at Vetements.
Inverting the fast-fashion formula of making the luxurious attainable, Gvasalia has made the common into an expensive commodity. It’s familiar, yet elevated — like what your dad would wear, except for that four-dollar-sign price tag. It may evoke Michael Scott, but it’s made for Donald Trump’s tax bracket.
Which brings us back to the political side of the collection. The Bernie inspired Balenciaga logo appeared on sweatshirts, windbreakers, pins and enlarged on a shawl scarf draped over the last model. The multi-layered looks included variations of a hoodie layered under a plaid button up under a logo-bearing T-shirt paired with khakis and stacked-sole sneakers. They’re ensembles suited for cross country bus rides and grassroots campaigning. It evokes American politics at a time when the whole world is looking closely at the U.S. capitol.
This is an extremely relevant statement to make of the political and corporate merging, as President Donald Trump enters the White House. His political brand represents the country now.
Fashion reflects the world around it, so Gvasalia’s collection arrived right on time. At the cusp of Trump’s presidency, it shows us that the themes that matter so much right now are going to stick around — at least until next fall, when the collection actually hits the market.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Jan. 23 print edition.
Email Sophie Shaw at [email protected]