Demna asks us what luxury means through his ode to couture
It has been 53 years since Balenciaga’s last couture collection, so when rumour had it that creative director Demna Gvasalia wanted to bring the classical art back this fall, of course everyone had to be there. And as I sat behind my desk with a coffee in hand, hundreds of kilometres removed from Paris, this live show might have felt the most intimate yet. The broadcast already took off pre-show, where we saw no one less than guests Kanye West, Anna Wintour and Bella Hadid chatting away. Oh, how we’ve missed it, that run-up of who’s sitting where, who’s late and who isn’t, who’s wearing what? Back in the days, Balenciaga shows were social events, so it was a conscious choice to re-include it for this fiftieth couture collection, and as an ode to the beginning days.
There we all were, patiently waiting and observing the jazzy preamble, until a sudden stillness hit…. a certain serenity filled only with the inevitable clacking of heels, dragging of dresses, clicking camera’s, and the occasional incoming messages. For Demna, this was once again a conscious choice, as for him it’s always been, and always will be only about the clothes. Sharp, exaggerated cuts and uncanny silhouettes shaped to perfection made their way through the space — a practice the fashion house has been known for since the start — but it was especially intriguing to see how Gvasalia brought the classic Cristóbal designs back this season. The haute couture dresses and suits stole the show in particular, of which the refined figures and frames were subtly balanced out with the brands iconic alien-like shield sunglasses.
Not only was this a tribute to Balenciaga itself, as the trained eye might have also caught a few winks to Maison Margiela throughout the collection, especially reflected and referenced in the minimalistic designs and eye-masking black headgear. Balenciaga’s idiosyncratic colour palette — we’re talking about you, cobalt blue, fluor pink and emerald green — blew extra vividness into the collection, especially set off against the bridal white interior. All in all, this Fall Couture 2021 has been an investigation of what luxury means to us, and more importantly, how it’s packaged to us in this day and age. A moment of cultural reflection was had, and we can’t wait until the next one!