Balenciaga blooms with a vivid and chic floral display

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The Independent Online

The normally bright white Balenciaga showroom was decked out in Paris yesterday with the kind of exuberant floral carpet your granny might like. A sign of things to come? Well, yes, although anyone suspecting the collection would be simply traditional was sorely mistaken. Flowers, though, were most certainly the order of the day – just as they were in Milan and indeed in London before that.

It should come as no surprise, however, that this was the most vivid treatment of a time-honoured fair weather theme imaginable, taking in everything from exceptionally bright rhododendron prints in magenta and forest green – more readily associated with soft furnishings than fashion – to the most exquisitely delicate rosebud embroideries that brought the finest hand-painted porcelain china to mind.

There was nothing blowsy about the silhouette across which these lovely blooms were scattered. Instead, the designer Nicolas Ghesquiere demonstrated the rigour that he has always been famous for. Exaggerated hour-glass dresses crafted in intricate panels of fabric stood away from the body sweetly. More boxy tunics were worn over an A-line micro-mini skirt so brief it came with its own pair of micro-shorts attached. Many of these boasted the sack back that Cristobal Balenciaga brought to fashion in his heyday. A curved shoulder-line, reminiscent of a crescent moon, lent a Futuristic look to the silhouette which is Ghesquiere's own territory, however. It looked most extraordinary when it sprouted and morphed into the frilly head of a multi-hued hydrangea.

Should anyone be so distracted by the horticultural theme that they might miss the move forward in silhouette, Ghesquiere stripped away all embellishment for the final sequence of shimmering shantung silk tailoring. This was as impossibly narrow and impeccably chic as might be expected and made all the more challenging a prospect for mere mortals coming as it did in fondant, chocolate box shades.

The Japanese designer Junya Watanabe showed later that this was also a moment to say it with flowers. It is a measure of the diversity on display in Paris that he did so entirely differently. In this case muslin dresses as light and voluminous as clouds were wrapped around the body and fastened with gold plaited straps. A witty take on the Chanel jacket came in the same humble fabric densely pleated and finished with gold braid. While Ghesquiere's florals looked like they'd been studied under a microscope and many had an almost hyper-real quality, Watanabe's were more traditionally English in flavour, faded and highly feminine but never dull.

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