Balmain, Spring/Summer '09 (scroll down to read the review)
By now in his sixth season at Balmain, designer Christophe Decarnin has officially swept away all remnants of the storied French brand's dusty past. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine former designer Oscar de la Renta, or Monsieur Balmain himself for that matter, embracing ripped up jeans and heavy-on-the-hardware, peak-shouldered jackets, all to the tune of Madonna.
Decarnin, who opened his show with a shoe-tapping blast of 'Get into the Groove', admitted to an obsession with the Material Girl's early oeuvre, but that was a mere undercurrent in a collection that embodied a modern, sexy edge.
Essentially Decarnin put forth two proposals for evening. The first was a versatile day-into-night look of skin tight cloud wash jeans worn atop crystal bondage stilettos (this season going into full distribution thanks to Giuseppe Zanotti) and paired with heavily metalled and embroidered military jackets.
For a more high impact evening, an abbreviated dress, barely skimming the models' backsides, was executed in chiffon bondage or heavy crystal or sequin floral designs. This is the new way of dressing up without actually looking as if you tried.
However, Balmain may now be limited to women with the jean size of a model and the bank account of an oligarch: These clothes are neither forgiving nor cheap. And in a way, that is what connects them most successfully with house's heritage. Sexy exuberance has supplanted the once classic restraint, but the contradiction works well with a designer who is committed to niche eveningwear and the brilliant couture he can squeeze out of the Balmain ateliers.