Balenciaga’s Couture Reboot
Demna Gvasalia’s first-ever Haute Couture collection is here.
Demna Gvasalia’s long-awaited Balenciaga couture collection got its debut in Paris at the salons of Cristobal Balenciaga. This is the first time that the label has shown couture since the closure of the atelier in 1968 when the house’s founder famously declared “there is no one left to dress.”
Gvasalia began his creative couture process by going back to the archives to study Cristobal Balenciaga’s work. “Couture is the essence of Balenciaga,” he said. “It’s the starting point – not a bag, not a sneaker, not a logo t-shirt, all of which I love designing, but it’s the highest level of craftsmanship – the silhouettes, the architecture of the garment, everything that is the foundation of this house.”
The debut was set to a silent soundtrack letting the clothes and masterful silhouettes speak for themselves. Models began walking around the hall in all-black ensembles – a nod to Balenciaga himself, who typically opened with black looks, to focus the audience on the silhouette. This included Balenciaga’s first couture men looks with suits and tailored jackets. Denim was also prominent in the collection but far from standard sturdy jeans instead the textiles were sourced from special manufacturers in Japan who make handwoven jeans, which were then tailored to perfection after 12 fittings.
The show became increasingly daring in typical Balenciaga form with exaggerated and re-proportioned cuts. For example, a double-breasted ankle-length overcoat was finished in a clean houndstooth, with extra-wide shoulders that have become a Gvasalia signature. Other models were seen wearing architectural cocktail dresses with otherworldly hats designed by Philip Treacy.
There were plenty of ingenious fabrications in the collection, from leather made to look like a terry cloth bathrobe-style coat, to silk embroideries made to mimic different types of fur. Faux fur jackets were combined with ‘mom jeans’ and turtlenecks were coupled up with crocodile leather trousers. As for the accessories, male models wore short-heeled pumps and knee-high boots and the bags resembled cardboard shopping bags for shoeboxes. As expected from a pioneer of streetwear, Gvaslia included several casual pieces into his collection. “I wanted to create a conversation with a modern customer who can be a couture customer of Balenciaga,” he said. “For that reason, I needed to put mundane, everyday pieces that we know from any kind of wardrobe into the couture context – a shirt, a denim jacket, pocket jeans, a trench coat.”
The final looks were a further nod to the heritage of couture with bridal designs. Gvasalia’s first Balenciaga bride arrived down the runway in a show-stopping full-length veil with a sheer white piece falling from the head and shoulders onto the floor. The accessory brought a genderless aspect to the look with the models face fully covered. The chic design is far from the windbreaker or bleached out denim looks and ends the show in a traditional yet modern way.