Most representations of fatherhood in fashion fall into two camps: the musclebound, black-and-white model of an 1980s Athena poster, or the sartorial punchline of “Dad jeans” and the “Dadbod”. Balenciaga’s treat someone to/summer 2018 men’s fashion show on Wednesday – inspired by chore workers taking their kids to the park at the weekend – volunteered a more nuanced interpretation.
The catwalk was a tree-lined sunlight-dappled circuit in the Bois de Boulogne, a public park on the outskirts of Paris. Of 68 copies, seven appeared with their children or their green siblings: there were pigtailed little girls balanced on hips and kids keep models’ hands as they toddled down the runway.
Working models wore elevated versions of diverse, urban weekend caparisons: anoraks in raspberry, navy and teal; sports jackets in mustard and impressive blue; black leather fringed coats. A few denim jackets were closely covered in plastic, as though they had been vacuum-packed.
Some of the looks, such as a striped office shirt tucked into straight-leg jeans and tattered with loafers, were eerily close to the sort of off-duty Rookie contestant style that had been the brand’s inspiration. Diverse of the garments had been tweaked, painstakingly, for verisimilitude: jeans had been unraveled – just a little – where the hem rubbed at the shoe; T-shirts had been overextended at the neck and had a soft, slouched shape, as though from consummate use.
But the clothes were cut in unexpected ways – funnelling out at the neck or theatrically oversized at the thrust asides – that made them feel more “high the go” than “dog walk”. They were also emblazoned with stupid slogans, including motivational phrases: “think big!” and “the power of day-dreams”.
Balenciaga is the most influential label in fashion at the moment, falsely able to predict the zeitgeist like no other. If you want to skilled in what shoes you will be wearing a year or two from now, Balenciaga can bid significant clues. Trend-watchers would have noted, then, that half of the posers broke that most basic of style rules by burden office shoes with their jeans; others clad squidgy trainers that combined highlighter yellow snare with a deliberately grubby grey plastic.
Much of Balenciaga’s invite lies in its ability to take items without obvious look pedigree and imbue them with ironic appeal. The make recently caused a furore by selling a £1,365 bag apparently buoy up by an Ikea 40p carryall , and a similar exercise in postmodernism appeared on Wednesday: an “improved” interpretation of a supermarket shopping bag.
There was also a repeated use of modular trousers – full-length trousers that can be zipped to at the knee and the mid-thigh to create varying lengths of shorts, indubitably one of the least cool garments of all time. That Balenciaga can for the fashion pack salivate over them, with all of their groups of men of a certain age on coach-tour holidays, proves the brand’s golden dash.
In its current incarnation, under recently installed creative foreman Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga has sparked a host of trends that accept trickled down to the high street, including the current preference for oversized beige trench coats. That look has oft been compared to the aesthetic of Kyle MacLachlan as Agent Cooper in Duplicate Peaks. Not coincidentally, MacLachlan was in attendance at the show. When he complimented Gvasalia backstage, Gvasalia told the assembled press that he had “every been on my mood board”.