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Wang goes for 'modern elegance' in Balenciaga debut

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

New York fashion star Alexander Wang on Thursday presented his much anticipated first show for Balenciaga with a collection praised as "elegance, modernity, structure", while Lanvin's Alber Elbaz opted for a large helping of old school glamour.

In one of the shows of the week, Wang paid homage to the founder of the illustrious fashion house Cristobal Balenciaga in what he modestly described as a "prologue".

Wang, one of the hottest names in US fashion who also has his own label, was announced last December as a replacement for Nicolas Ghesquiere whose surprise departure came after 15 years during which he propelled Balenciaga back to the design frontline.

Speaking after the show, dominated by sleek, elegant looks in black and white, Wang said he aimed to appeal to women of all backgrounds.

"It's a global mindset. I have always had that intention in dressing. It's an attitude, it's a sensibility. It's never defined by a certain age, a certain background," he said.

"Balenciaga had such a multicultural background, coming from Spanish roots, but being a Parisian house. That in itself is already such a global way of thinking," he added.

Francois-Henri Pinault, chairman and CEO of PPR, the luxury group that owns Balenciaga said Wang had excelled in producing a collection under huge pressure.

The French fashion house, which Balenciaga founded in 1919 and closed in 1968, is now one of the jewels in the PPR crown.

"It's exceptional. He has an intimate knowledge of the label in such a short period. Even I was surprised, he arrived in December!" said Pinault.

Asked to sum up the collection in a few words, he said simply: "Elegance, modernity, structure."

The 29-year-old Wang, born in California to Taiwanese parents, has also continued his independent New York-based house alongside his Balenciaga duties.

Launched in 2007, the highly successful label specialises in relaxed chic with a streetwise edge.

Giving its verdict on the collection, trade journal Women's Wear Daily said it had not offered the 'the heady thrill of Nicolas Ghesquire’s best work".

But it added, "for a collection not a minute more than two months in the making from first glimmer to runway, it made for an impressive start".

Israeli designer Elbaz's collection for Lanvin, meanwhile, had a distinctly retro look with plenty of nipped-in waists, full skirts, belted jackets and fur.

Oscar-nominated "Amour" actress Emmanuelle Riva, who wore a teal Lanvin caped dress to the awards ceremony last Sunday, was among those in the front row along with Catherine Deneuve.

Eye-catching looks included a grey puff sleeved dress embellished with butterflies and a peach ruffle-necked blouse with narrow front peats.

Elsewhere, India's Manish Arora drew inspiration from a visit to Nevada's Burning Man festival in the US state's Black Rock Desert, taking prints to new heights.

The annual festival, which takes its name from the burning of a large wooden effigy, has its origin in a summer solstice ritual.

Arora's prints progressed from the "vast day landscape... moving to evening clouds mixed with neon motifs and a play of geometric lines with neon rays", the house said in a statement.

But there was no shortage of Indian-inspired sequin embroidery and beading.

"I didn't want to forget that I'm Indian," he told AFP after the show. "I wanted to continue it (the Indian influence) but not so obviously, keeping the Indian touch in bits and pieces.

"Showing India in a cliched way is done already, (now) it's about doing leather turbans with accessories, that was the idea to combine old techniques with new futuristic designs," he added.

Other looks standing out included a mustard pencil skirt and jacket with black embellishments and a body-hugging green dress draped with chains.

Paris is playing host to nearly 90 autumn/winter 2013/14 ready-to-wear collections and presentations over nine days, wrapping up on March 6.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130228/wang-goes-modern-elegance-balenciaga-debut