On Friday, May 25th, 2012, IFA Paris’ MBA Fashion Business students visited Cité de la Mode et du Design’s parallel exhibitions,Comme des Garçons/Balenciaga, curated by Olivier Saillard as a re-launch of Cite de la Mode’s architectural renovation.  Located in the 13th arrondissement next to Gare d’Austerlitz, the exhibition celebrates Rei Kawakubo’s highly lauded spring/summer 12 White Dramacollection for Comme des Garcons shown last October, adjacent to a collector’s exhibit of Cristobal Balenciaga. Kawakubo’s contemporary chameleon sensibility is juxtaposed by a liminal, saintly incarnation of Balenciaga’s work, all set against a stunningly modern backdrop along the Seine.

In White Drama, Kawakubo’s stark white collection pays homage to Cristobal Balenciaga’s deeply religious sentiments and rejection of the defined waist, through bell sleeves and sanctimonious robes, riffing on the cycle of life.  Themes of birth and christening evolve into marriage and eventually morph into death, all encased in airtight plastic bubbles.  Her floral confections personify purism at its most dynamic, while Cristobal Balenciaga’s collectors items from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries evoke the couturier’s inspiration behind his infamous Spanish designs.

IFA Paris’ MBA class witnessed the ability of fashion to transcend time on their latest fieldtrip: the religious parallel between two disparate designers demonstrates the current capacity of a creative director to pioneer modern fashion.  “It was really inspiring,” said one student of the exhibit, “the Balenciaga collector’s pieces evoked such a history, and the beaded gowns were exquisite. I loved how they compared to the stark-white pieces from Comme.”

Exquisite and unique are sentimentsoften reiterated by cult-comme followers –anyone in fashion can attest to how exclusive and influential the Japanese brand has become over the last four decades.  Comme des Garçons shows invite only a privileged few – where they lack the insatiable grandeurthat a Chanel or Armani show brings to the Grand Palais, they make up for it with an elite, tightly knit circle of trailblazers who surpass the literal semantics of design.  Calling it alternative would insult the brand, for Commedesigns continue to pioneer a greater expression of art in a tangible form, akin to Balenciaga who dually mastered shape and form. The parallels between each designer, one historical, and the other current, mark an important turning point in the current industry. Not surprisingly, the Balenciaga house boasts an equally exclusive crowd at Nicolas Ghesquiere’s shows today. 

Balenciaga/Comme des Garçons at Cité de la Mode runs until October 7th, 2012