You wouldn’t have thought that the moment a designer really hits his stride at a house would be best illustrated by a pair of knitting needles. But thanks to Alexander Wang’s myriad inventive ways with knit in his strong—and best yet—Balenciaga fall 2014 collection, that’s the case here. This was also one of those shows you were thankful you’d previewed it the previous day, because there was so much that was imaginative and technologically innovative about the way Wang manipulated the humble art of knit one, purl two, you wouldn’t have grasped it all no matter where you were sitting at the show. Knit was molded and sculpted to arc and flow around the body, slicked with latex (Wang revealed it had to be massaged in by hand, otherwise it would run like a bad paint—or nail—job) and embroidered with thousands of little glass beads, rhinestones, and pearls, giving the effect of a sea Anemone.
Wang opened with a trio of great coats, cocoon-shaped, in felted wool, with chunky, industrial-strength zippers running up one sleeve, across the back, and down the other, worn with lean pants with a slight but perceptible kick at the ankle (a recurring look here). The coats were swathed in beaver, with leather-knitted pouch pockets.
From then on, the knits kept coming, but not always in the most obvious ways; a gorgeous green anorak, for instance, with a stitch that looked like a tire track, was given a three-dimensional treatment through the use of a raised surface created out of wool and foam. A series of traditional outerwear—the parka, the fisherman’s rain jacket—were all in chunky cable-knit wool, which had been coated in that latex, dully gleaming in olive green or canary yellow, while underneath there were Wang’s cool update on sweater dressing, with colorful banded dresses and skirts, perhaps metal chain glinting on their hems, a hard-core take on the idea of the typical ribbed finish.
More was to come in a hyperchic duo of a cardigan and cardigan coat—the former green, the latter black—their herringbone patterns bonded to leather-embellished wrung metal grommets, and worn with the legs encased in more of those slim pants or ultralong boots. His wonderful evening finale incorporated the show’s central concept, which was sported by—hurrah, let’s hear it for the supermodels!—the likes of Caroline Trentini and Gisele Bündchen. Oh, that someone would take the risk on the red carpet to wear—even a somewhat modified celeb-friendly version—the sweaterdress dramatically scooped on one side over trousers, that same silhouette deployed for a smoking, worn with a turtleneck underneath. (This fall is going to go down as the season of the high neck.) And what of the accessories, you might ask? Wang had plenty of those—as did the models, with the girls in the opening looks clutching three bags at once, practical tote shapes rendered in crocodile, beaver, calfskin, and patent leather, the bags suspended from metal handles made to look like tension wires. Maybe they needed all three because they were lugging around yet more balls of wool, who knows?