Balenciaga seeks to reset narrative with haute couture revival | Balenciaga
During her six years at Balenciaga, Georgian fashion designer Demna Gvasalia put Crocs plastic sandals and products from the Bernie Sanders campaign on the catwalks in Paris. Shop windows on Avenue Montaigne framed a £ 1,600 version of Ikea’s signature blue nylon Frakta tote bag and, this season, a £ 2,000 hi-vis jacket in garish yellow nylon .
This week, in its strangest move yet, Gvasalia relaunched the haute couture branch of Balenciaga, which closed in 1968. Haute couture, where taffeta ball gowns are created to suit tastes and styles. Measurements of the affluent elite, seems an unlikely area of interest for the designer, whose first Balenciaga show half a decade ago sparked a global renaissance of the down jacket that is still going strong.
It was always going to be a different kind of fashion show. Ella Emhoff, daughter-in-law of US Vice President Kamala Harris, was one of the models, wearing a quilted silk opera jacket over a tuxedo. Kanye West, in the front row, wore a balaclava everywhere. There were more buzz cuts than updos.
The show opened with a series of pantsuits, some worn by men, others by women. A vaporous, unstructured vest dress replaced a ball gown, a fluffy pastel dressing gown for a coat. The dystopian note that echoes through every Balenciaga show seemed in eerie harmony with the pandemic zeitgeist. The oversized, opaque, eyewear-style sunglasses on the runway looked almost normal in a room where most spectators had half of their faces obscured under masks.
But the biggest surprise was that it was in many ways a very traditional fashion show. The place was an apartment that the founder of the label, Cristóbal Balenciaga, used in the past for shows, refitted in recent years as a storage room. Rather than taking it apart and reshaping the space, Gvasalia had it restored to its muted 1960s elegance, with pale bourgeois rugs and plush curtains on the windows.
The small live audience were seated on delicate golden chairs, watched by viewers during a livestream where the footage was shot on Red Garland’s jazz piano bar classic. Almost like being in love.
A denim jacket came with a traditional Balenciaga silhouette, the turtleneck and open at the back to reveal the nape of the neck; the matching five pocket jeans had solid silver buttons rather than aluminum. A flower-embroidered silk ball gown worn with opera gloves was based on a piece made for Jackie Kennedy.
The bride who closed the show, as is tradition in haute couture, wore a two-piece with a double balloon silhouette that erases the waist with which Balenciaga himself scandalized Paris more than a year ago. half a century.
The logic behind this costly investment in a new catwalk platform is that Balenciaga, along with the other most prestigious names in the industry, urgently needs to take back control of the fashion narrative. During the pandemic, fashion weeks died out and the traditional seasonal calendar lost its relevance. The trends have been led by Nike and Netflix, rather than the usual fashion week names. The reopening of haute couture represents Balenciaga taking the upper hand over these suitors.
Speaking to the Business of Fashion website ahead of the show, Gvasalia said he viewed relaunching fashion in its most expensive form as an “anti-consumer” measure. “Maybe someone quits buying sneakers and t-shirts for a year or two and then they can have this amazing haute couture trench coat. I’d love that,” he said.