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Paris Fashion Week: Rebel yells at Balenciaga and Balmain

September 30, 2010 | 10:36 am

Bal1 The runway met the street at Paris Fashion Week when Balenciaga designer Nicolas Ghesquiere brought punk rock into the mix for spring.

Presented in the gilded ballroom of the Hotel de Crillon, the same place debutantes are presented to society every year, Ghesquiere's desmoiselles had a baroque grandeur all their own, right down to the silver studs on the soles of their shoes.

Ghesquiere said backstage that he had wanted to explore different ideals of beauty, so he cast a wider net for models than usual, recruiting thirtysomethings (what passes for older in this business), including Stella Tennant, and even a few unknowns from the street. All wore their hair swept into short styles, which practically rendered them genderless.

The collection was a clashing of masculine and feminine, real and faux, old and new. Soft lavender, bubblegum pink, lemon yellow and cornflower blue shared the runway with rebel-rousing red, white and black.

And as always, the fabrics were unreal, including laces that looked as if they had been singed, or embroidered with Silly String.

Opening the show were cocoon coats after Cristobal Balenciaga's originals, except that these were plasticky-looking with supersized red-and-black houndstooth checks. They morphed into zip-front vests with Peter Pan collars in the same pattern, and matching miniskirts with zigzag hems.

Bal2 Then came the menswear -- a black tailcoat with satin lapels worn with red bubble shorts and a white button-down with silver metal collar tips. (That's right, we're really going back there.)

But the sleeveless button-down shirts were the biggest hit -- assemblages of pastel patterns and prints (modern art, really), worn with black pants that fastened at the side with silver hardware. Of course, there were biker jackets too, in both real and fake leather -- sometimes on the same piece.

Bal3 Digitized metallic houndstooth tops were paired with see-through knit jersey lace skirts that had printed underskirts to give them structure. And one-shouldered dresses covered with sequins sewn inside out, glinted like fireworks.

After two weeks of soft and 1970s-inspired on the runways in Milan and New York, it was time for something with a harder edge. Ghesquiere delivered without relying on all the safety-pinned, Sex Pistols cliches that made Christophe Decarnin's punk rock-themed Balmain collection, shown just hours later, so forgettable.

--Booth Moore in Paris

Balenciaga spring-summer 2011 runway collection photo gallery

Balmain spring-summer 2011 runway collection photo gallery

Photos: Looks from the Balenciaga spring-summer 2011 runway collection shown during Paris Fashion Week. Credit: Jonas Gustavsson & Peter Stigter.