With Alexander Wang not yet ensconced, and the door still swinging after Nicolas Ghesquière's sudden departure, Balenciaga's pre-fall '13 collection was destined to be a neither-here-nor-there affair. Harking back to the namesake's archives for inspiration, the in-house design team cobbled together a decidedly post-war yet pre-tech array of muted stiff coats and wallflower dresses, with some exceptions. The materials used—mostly wool, cotton, leather, and shearling—called to mind the days before polyester and subsequent generations of synthetic fabrics.
Despite wayward seaming and the occasional asymmetrical hem, like that on a skirt, this was Cristobal Balenciaga far more than Ghesquière's Balenciaga. Rather than relying on latter-day tropes, the team brought back the founder's trademarks, namely masculine shapes, luxe embroidery, noirish outerwear like peacoats and trenches, some of which were belted in a tight wasp-waist.
In a sense, the small collection served as a palate-cleanser before the main course in early March, as well as a reminder of just how far the house has changed since its couture beginnings. There's very little doubt that Wang, a brash young American if ever there were, will recast it in an all-new novel way.