Balenciaga returns to Haute Couture after half-century hiatus

Translated by

Marguerite Capelle

Published on



Jul 7, 2021

The silence was intense at Balenciaga, during a parade without any soundtrack which marked the brand’s return to Haute Couture, fifty years later. On the other hand, the applause was resounding as we greeted the sixty-three looks as sculptural as they were voluminous imagined by the creative director, Demna Gvasalia.

The collection was presented at the historic headquarters of the recently restored house, at 10 avenue George V, in front of an audience of barely one hundred people… it was clearly the most popular event of the season, a well-deserved place.

Lewis Hamilton was there, wearing a surgical mask. Kanye West too, his head fully concealed under a silk mask adorned with a saber-toothed tiger print. Bella Hadid arrived, breathless, just as the parade was about to begin. A small set of musical chairs was essential to make it a place in the front row, next to the racing driver, who seemed quite delighted.

The only audible noise from the entire parade was the hiss of an inky black dress made of glittery shards, as the models slowly paced the carpeted floor of the showroom, where Cristobal Balenciaga once hosted a privileged clientele.

For this mixed parade, the super talented successor of the founder, Georgian Demna Gvasalia, opened the ball with a quartet of suits and tuxedos for men in fresh wool, one of which was worn by a woman. All featured chunky square shoulders and baggy pants, setting the tone and highlighting the figure.

Balenciaga – 50 years Couture Collection – Photo courtesy of Balenciaga – Photo: Courtesy of Balenciaga

He then paired several tailors with giant quilted silk satin coats, curiously described as stoles in the paper program, that were worthy of an opera diva or medieval potentate.

Dashing houndstooth chesterfield overcoats falling to the ankles, wrap-around blazers with pagoda shoulders, and tri-oversize suits all gave off a very contemporary feel. Vicuña turtlenecks completed the looks, as well as trompe l’oeil tuxedo shirts or micro-logo ties, for a very arty gentleman style on all male models.

On the women’s side, stunning curly-embroidered curly tweed evening dresses, cut like chess pieces, all in curves. But also an orange Jaffa suit, or an unstructured trench coat, both associated with male collars, freeing the neck by 8 centimeters. Perfectly calculated proportions.

Due to the pandemic, Demna Gvasalia had more than a year to work on the collection, which he called “pure luxury”.

Balenciaga – 50 years Couture Collection – Photo courtesy of Balenciaga – Photo: Courtesy of Balenciaga

Huge funnel necks, incredibly drooping shoulders or elephantine volumes: the designer has clearly pushed the cap when it comes to exaggerated proportions, but without ever falling into the farce. His sense of hyperbole never slips. Its curvaceous shapes and metallic finishes are reminiscent of Balenciaga DNA, but never too literally.

“Balenciaga is architecture. It is not design. It is not decoration. It is an architectural story and clothes are the first layer that dresses the body. So I I didn’t really have a choice, in this house especially. But it also corresponds to my way of imagining clothes. Less ornamentation, and more structure from human forms, accentuating posture and attitude with sophistication and elegance, couture style. I try to marry Cristobal’s heritage and my vision in the same aesthetic “, explained Demna Gvasalia to FashionNetwork.com.

While François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering and owner of Balenciaga, added: “Haute Couture is the very foundation of Balenciaga. Its raison d’être. So it makes a lot of sense to bring back Haute Couture, without looking to the past but showing the way to the future “.

The designer hasn’t lost his sense of humor either, as his new leather bag – designed to look like a luxury black and white shopping bag – was not lacking in wit. Demna even called on the talents of Irish hat maker Philip Treacy to create several giant, black velvet-effect domed hats.

Balenciaga – 50 years Couture Collection – Photo courtesy of Balenciaga – Photo: Courtesy of Balenciaga

“My minute of silence was a tribute to the legacy of Cristobal Balenciaga, and to the past of this house. And then, it is also a moment of silence so that fashion is a little silent, in a broader way. to look at yourself in the mirror and ask, ‘So what?’ “adds the designer, who wore a couture suit, another first… straight from Huntsman’s on Savile Row.

“For me it’s a new moment, entering a different time in my life. Most people probably put me in a box, that of a guy who makes hoodies and sneakers. it’s not really who I am. So for me it was really important to use this opportunity to show who I really am, as a creator. This is the translation. I hope! “, he laughed.

Sometimes the raw talent of a designer wins the day. This was the case today at Balenciaga, with one of the most striking collections to date of the Parisian season.

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