Color and Chaos in Paris
Givhan, Robin, Newsweek
Byline: Robin Givhan
Balenciaga's splashy spring collection brightens a day of surprises.
As even the most casual consumer of popular culture knows, the fashion world, at its white-hot core, remains an old-fashioned hierarchy--and nowhere is that pecking order more evident than in a fashion-show seating chart.
But that rigorously protected ranking unexpectedly crumbled as the spring 2012 collections began in late September in Paris, the capital of international style. As guests settled into their assigned seats for the eagerly anticipated Balenciaga show, a black-lacquer bench in the front collapsed, taking with it a line of designer-clad editors.
After two more coveted benches went down with loud crashes, show organizers feared that such glamorous guests as Catherine Deneuve and Salma Hayek--wife of the brand's corporate chieftain, Francois-Henri Pinault--might soon be splayed in a heap. The house asked the entire audience to stand, and thus the show began. When that first model appeared, we were just a bunch of folks watching some utterly glorious clothes pass by.
As designer Nicolas Ghesquiere took his bows, he mouthed "I'm sorry" for the furniture's failure, but really the audience should have been congratulating him for the upheaval. The aloof world of Paris fashion had momentarily become a little more democratic, a little less snooty, and no one suffered injury--except, perhaps, to the ego. …