Balenciaga Makes A Return to Haute Couture After 53 Years
It was the only show that stone-faced fashion editors could talk about on Day 3 of Paris Couture Week. Joining the couture conversation once again—and very fittingly on a particularly pleasant day in the French capital—over half a century after Cristóbal Balenciaga closed his doors to couture and the fashion industry at large in 1967, his eponymous house has entered the chat for the second time, 53 years later. And it was like the great couturier had never retired.
In what is the iconic couture house’s 50th couture collection, artistic director Demna Gvasalia has managed to pen a love letter—we also mean it in the literal sense—to Mr Balenciaga by flawlessly translating all the trademark baroque exuberance and austerity of the founder’s Spanish style for not only the perfectly modern woman, but also the discerning man; a couture first for Balenciaga.
While youth may be the currency of the prêt-à-porter collections, it is a deep respect for fashion history that monopolises the Georgian designer’s first couture collection for the house—a sentiment that the perceptive and sartorially astute women and men that can actually afford the made to measure way of life really appreciate.
Remaining incredibly faithful to the codes of Balenciaga while still having the ability to retain its hold on the consumers of today—without ever being dismissive—the 63 looks were modelled in what we can only come to describe as a kind of reverential silence that would send chills down your spine at 10 Avenue George V, in the house’s original salon where Mr Balenciaga used to hold court back in the day.
Oh, the enduring allure of Balenciaga. At the height of his career, the Spanish designer was a grandmaster of construction and inventor of silhouettes for couture that quickly became catalysts for great changes in the fashions of his day. And his legacy has never been more apparent than today.
One of Mr Balenciaga’s early inventions, the envelope dress resembling an upturned funnel cake that looks just as delicious today in Gvasalia’s hands, like it did then, made one ofTatler’s picks.
The other standout looks were modelled ever so elegantly by niece-in-law of one of Balenciaga’s mentees, Suzi de Givenchy—yes, that Givenchy; along with various other famous last names in fashion like Courrèges, Ungaro and de la Renta who all called Mr Balenciaga mentor. Then there was artist, fashion darling, and daughter of United States Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff and stepdaughter of United States Vice President Kamala Harris, Ella Emhoff.
Clearly, as relevant now as it did then, the house of Balenciaga still has an immortal influence that transcends the workings of time and reaches far beyond the realms of fashion—one that also happens to serendipitously lend itself to the spheres of pop culture and politics—we just know that somewhere from the great beyond, Mr Balenciaga must be smiling down on the house that Gvasalia now leads. Couture is in safe hands.