For several seasons now, Balenciaga has been one of the hottest tickets of Paris Fashion Week. The reasoning can be expounded with a triple threat recipe – show ingenuity, celebrity zeitgeist, and jaw-dropping silhouettes in unexpected fabrics. The designer behind the house is Georgian Demna, appointed by Kering in October 2015 as artistic director of the collections. He boasts a Royal Academy of Fine Arts degree from Antwerp and a ready-to-wear line of his own, Vetements. When it was announced that the maison, founded in 1917 by Cristóbal Balenciaga, would again showcase couture, starting with a Fall 2021 show, eyebrows rose. Demna had proven he could make clothes, but could he make couture? Rising to the challenge, in the storied halls of Balenciaga’s headquarters, over the course of 15 minutes, he once again made the house one of the hottest couture tickets in recent times.
The latest show confirmed that this achievement shows no signs of waning. Fall 2022 made certain the runway was the main affair, pulling otherwise front-row guests and inviting them to walk the carpeted halls of the Balenciaga headquarters on Avenue Montaigne. Dua Lipa, Nicole Kidman, and face of the brand Kim Kardashian created a global media frenzy so loud that Demna deemed the show didn’t need music. To keep the focus on the clothes – beamed in real time across social media platforms – guests were asked to wear all-black. While the opening looks appeared painted by Soulages, they eventually made way for bursts of color – bluebird and blood red; this collection, after all, was a love letter, as indicated via a poem voiced in AI at the start of the show. “This year I decided that I needed to put more of myself into it, and kind of find a new future, you know?” Demna told Vogue.
Balenciaga’s shows, since Demna’s appointment, have hit a mark somewhere between riotous and new world order. Case in point, the Spring ready-to-wear Théâtre du Châtelet extravaganza that ended with a Simpsons episode screening; and the Fall ready-to-wear show that explored the climate and refugee crisis. Demna reminded viewers that he too is a refugee, having been forced to flee his bombed home during the Abkhaz-Georgian conflict. His talent, among others, is being able to translate real drama to the runway in a way that never feels advantageous or fantastical. For Demna, all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players, to quote Shakespeare.
This month, Vogue Arabia invites Lebanese comedian Bassem Feghali to embody the drama of Demna’s world. The singer has offered homage to icons Sabah, Fairouz, Lady Gaga, and Marilyn Monroe to name a few, and was awarded an Emi Gala in Dubai, in 2021. For the shoot, photographed by Sandra Chidiac in a private residence in Paris, mirroring Vogue Arabia’s love of the unexpected and Balenciaga’s creative spirit, Feghali dons Fall 2022 Balenciaga couture. Whether in an emerald-green satin sheath dress or a ballgown in bubblegum-pink gazar, Feghali shows that in Balenciaga – even when not breaking into song – the entertainer can make an entrance and hold your gaze. Some of the strongest statements can be made in silence.
Originally published in the September 2022 issue of Vogue Arabia
Style: Amine Jreissati
Hair: Shei Tan
Makeup assistant: Juliette Foucque
Light assistant: Xavier Gras
Producer: Sam Allison
Special thanks to Michael Coorengel and Jean-Pierre Calvagrac