My dearly beloved, we come together to mourn the passing of our dearly departed friend, Balenciaga.

Born in Spain, the late Cristobal Balenciaga was an amazing craftsman, the kind who didn’t rely on others do to his pattern making or his embroidery or his stitching. He understood that beauty on a woman’s body did not depend on a fixed waistline or hem. He brought an elegance to women’s wear that didn’t require women to meet rigid body size requirements. Upon his death in 1972, a client allegedly said,  “Women did not have to be perfect or even beautiful to wear his clothes. His clothes made them beautiful.”

Since his death, the string of designers following have always paid respect to the clean lines and gentle shapes of the house. Elegance has reigned supreme and the silhouettes maintained an accessibility that kept the brand at the top of the list for women around the world. Balenciaga was classy in a way all women could understand.

That Balenciaga is no more.

What came down the runway today was Alexander Wang, Part Deux. Slick, sexy, trim, athletic, and sporty, the collection picked up in many ways where Wang’s eponymous collection left off. Influenced by the Tour de France, this was a very streamlined silhouette we saw for this season, one that requires a body that works out, hits the gym, and stays active. This is a collection for younger women who have money to burn and don’t mind leaving their young children with a sitter to spend nights out at the club. Mesh. Skin-tight leggings. T-shirt and shorts ensembles. This is the look of Balenciaga now.

Are there any hints of the old house left? Sure, there are a few. Wang continues to try his hand at embroidery, but he’s nowhere near the master that Cristobal was and at times it really comes off forced rather than elegant. Jet beads, burned stitching in a lattice pattern, and bugle beads played heavily into the embellishment game as well. Unfortunately, even the embellishments came off looking more sporty than classy.

As an Alexander Wang collection, this set is rather impressive, perhaps even better than what he showed in New York. The lattice pattern he carries throughout works well for his skin-tight silhouettes and even the sheer mesh looks like it fits the garment rather than being added as an enticement. The off-the shoulder look is sexy and the pleated bodice, where it occurs, is an especially well-done addition that he perhaps should include more often. The looks have a lot of polish and shine to them, come off very Hollywood, and are very much ready for a night on the town. As an Alexander Wang collection, these are fantastic looks.

This is not a Balenciaga collection, though, and I doubt we will see such as long as Wang continues in the driver’s seat. He is too focused on Hollywood, the jet set, and the nearly famous. As a result, he doesn’t have the time or patience for the grace, accessibility, and elegance that has been the trademark of the house for so very long.

Consider this: Not too long ago the Balenciaga front row was filled with members of Europe’s royal families. Sitting front row for this show? A paparazzi hungry flash-in-the-pan who brought her one-year-old daughter to make sure the photographers noticed her.

Farewell, grace. Farewell, elegance. Farewell, Balenciaga. Say hello to Alexander Wang’s Paris collection.

Photo credit: Monica Feudi

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