Balenciaga gives Charlotte Gainsbourg a new shield

PARIS, March 4 Thu Mar 4, 2010 11:22am EST

PARIS, March 4 (Reuters Life!) - Charlotte Gainsbourg, the actress who plays the shy ingenue in films, has often said she felt protected like a soldier in a Balenciaga dress, particularly when appearing on the red carpet.

On Thursday, designer Nicolas Ghesquiere gave his muse extra reasons to feel armoured -- and enamoured with his work -- by unveiling a collection of padded jackets and silver overalls that would befit a 25th century army of sylph-like creatures.

Gainsbourg, who was present at the show, is also the face of Balenciaga's new fragrance launched last month, the first since Ghesquiere took over the fashion house 13 years ago.

Ghesquiere has infused new life into the brand, which has lain dormant since founder Cristobal Balenciaga closed it in 1968.

Known for his sci-fi designs and unexpected use of colours and prints, Ghesquiere described the woman of his winter/autumn 2010 collection as an urban dweller who never looked back.

"She takes risks, looks to the future and is not nostalgic," Ghesquiere told Reuters after the show.

The collection included jackets that looked like bullet-proof army jackets with their super-imposed fabrics. However, some carried an added touch of glamour with wide goat fur patches.

With their play on lines and geometry, some two-piece suits could have been inspired by paintings of Avant garde painters such as Kazimir Malevich or Fernand Leger.

Ghesquiere said he remained faithful to the house's tradition of re-inventing materials by stitching together layers of different fabrics.

"It is in the Balenciaga tradition of creating fabrics with collages, double faces, we collaborate with houses that give us special fabrics...which come from Japan, Italy... And then they (the fabrics) are padded, laser-pierced..."

His pieces included a black t-shaped shoulder cover, topping a jacket using colourful prints of ad-style texts about the American photographer Irving Penn.

Ghesquiere cited the legend of Cristobal Balenciaga who ended his creative life by producing dresses with only one stitch "as the fabric had taken over."

"The fabric was more important than the form. Me, I am still into the form, I cut. But it is true that fabrics are paramount at Balenciaga."

Ghesquiere's creative force has turned Balenciaga into the fastest growing brand within the Gucci Group, which is owned by Paris-listed PPR (PRTP.PA).

About three years ago, Balenciaga was elevated to the status of a main strategic brand within the Gucci Group, alongside Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Yves Saint-Laurent, which meant more resources were allocated to it.

The fashion house has been part of the Gucci Group since 2001 and profitable since 2005.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

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