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“It’s necessary for fashion’s survival:” Demna Gvasalia on Bringing Couture Back at Balenciaga

Photo: Courtesy of Balenciaga

Balenciaga made its return to high fashion today after decades of absence with a haute couture collection that seamlessly and beautifully fused heritage and modernity. The setting – the houses’ fully restored and intimate all-white salon on 10 Avenue George V – provided a blank (and silent, no music) canvas to let the clothes do the talking – and boy, did they talk.

“Fifty-three years have passed since Cristobal Balenciaga closed the doors of his house,” explains creative director Demna Gvasalia’s show notes. “…Over half a century later I see it as my creative duty to the unique heritage of Mr. Balenciaga to bring the couture back to this house.”

What followed wasn’t just a ‘greatest hits’ collection but a thoughtful, modern and inspired ode-with-a-twist. Gvasalia is dispensing with seasons to show only once a year and is including couture for men. “Couture is the highest level of garment construction,” his notes go on, “that is not only relevant in today’s mass-productive industry, but even absolutely necessary for the survival and further evolution of modern fashion.”

The opening looks – a series of sophisticated black tuxedo tailoring in Fresco wool – were signature Gvasalia with roomy proportions and exact finishing; and the addition of a padded stole in black satin proved an early hint to the volume play that was to follow.

Classic silhouettes were reinterpreted with state-of-the-art technology and milliner Philip Treacy reimagined the houses’ 1940s and 50s wide-brimmed hats as oversized domes in black velvet or metallic black resin – paired with head-to-toe denim the look was a striking commentary on today’s democratic couture customer. Textiles ranged from vintage wools, silk and satin to utilitarian technical fabrics, updated with bespoke underpinnings and strategic seams, and informal proposals such as a tailored tracksuit was lined with cashmere and constructed away from the body.

There were, of course, plenty of looks that will appeal to Cristobal traditionalists, too: a swing back jacket and skirt in vibrant orange gabardine with white jersey gloves; a silk shirt, giant bow corset and pant in polka; a coat inspired by the archives in black shantung silk embroidery faux fur made to look like feathers by Maison Lemarié; and a structured gown in pink floral-embroidered ivory silk by Maison Lesage. Each look echoed Gvasalia’s words: “Couture is above trends.”

Photo: Courtesy of Balenciaga

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