Angela Merkel's very particular sense of style got some major catwalk cred Sunday on the day the German chancellor was guaranteed her fourth term in office. Fashion's hottest designer Demna Gvasalia sent out more than a dozen jackets and coats with Merkel hips in his Paris fashion week show for Balenciaga.
The Georgian-born wunderkind, who grew up as a refugee in Germany after fleeing his war-torn homeland, channelled the prudent bourgeois hausfrau look so beloved of the German leader. One orange houndstooth coat, worn with a tight 1950s-style scarf, would have particularly pleased the thrifty Swabian housewives whose fiscal rectitude Merkel is so fond of quoting.
The designer price tag, however, might make them blanch. Gvasalia -- the hippest creator in the world right now for his designs for Balenciaga and his own Vetements label -- has not officially acknowledged the chancellor as his muse.
Stasi meets hausfrau
But two stern suits in his autumn-winter collection last year also had Merkelesque attributes, although they conjured up more the Stasi secret police of her youth in the old East Germany than the chancellor herself. Sam Hine, of US GQ magazine, tweeted at the time that the "last pillar of liberal democracy in Europe" was now Balenciaga's inspiration -- though doubted the link.
Now there is little doubt. Gvasalia said he had "re-engineered the sculptural tailoring" of the trademark "Basque" jackets and coats created by the fashion house's Spanish founder Cristobal Balenciaga. He said that garments' distinctive waistlines can be worn by both men and women thanks to "high-tech moulding development involving 3-D body scanning and digital fittings" -- or "Vorsprung durch Technik" (advancement through technology) as they say in Germany.
The 36-year-old creator, who has been accused of poverty chic for remaking the clothes of the poor for the rich, seemed to raid the wardrobes of the buttoned-up middle classes this time. Gvasalia had another matron model in a blue Barbour-style quilted jacket carry one of his leather "Ikea" shopping bags -- which retail for around 1,700 euros (2,000 USD) -- accessorised with a chain belt hung with keys. As well as the German property-owning classes, Gvasalia, now Zurich-based, also drew inspiration from Swiss ski culture, with a series of oversized anoraks with brightly coloured trompe l'oeil layered flaps at the front.
The Teutonic theme dominated the day from the start with Givenchy's British designer Clare Waight Keller dropping in on the end-of-the-world party that was West Berlin before fall of the wall.
The show, called "Night Noir", opened with a fantasia of fake fur and 1980s-style leather trousers and jackets through which Waight Keller evoked her memories of the "raw and alluring... brutalist blaze" of the German capital at the time, "thick with sleaze and danger". Her dark and carnal world of the avant garde scene where David Bowie recharged his creative batteries would likely give Merkel's Swabian housewives nightmares.
Besides making Merkel hip, Gvasalia loves to appropriate other people's logos. This time he borrowed the UN World Food Programme's to support its fight against hunger by putting it on his hoodies and bum bags. Many thought the telephone number he plastered on two of his blue business shirts -- one of his many nods to Margiela where he used to work -- was for donations to the WFP.
In fact, it turned out to be a "Balenciaga hotline" that has callers answer questions about their gender ("male, female or trans"), shoe size and whether they were more Paris, Berlin or London. Nevertheless, the most keenly-awaited show of the day was the revival of the house of Poiret nearly 90 years after French couturier king of Art Deco was undone by the Wall Street Crash.
Young Franco-Chinese designer Yiqing Yin's impressive resurrection of the brand was based around kimono and Japanese haori-style dresses, coats and trousers suits, pleated scarf dresses and shiny Margiela-influenced duvet coats as well as some striking sandals with oblique-angled heels. "We had to start from scratch a year ago, we had none of the teams," the 32-year-old, who is backed by the South Korean group Shinsegae, told AFP. She said she also had to put her own haute couture label on ice. (AFP)Photos: Balenciaga AW18, Catwalkpictures