One year ago to the day, Balenciaga's creative director, Demna, showed his first ever Balenciaga Haute Couture collection in the refurbished space of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s original atelier in complete silence. It was the first time the House had shown a Haute Couture collection in 53 years, marking an iconic moment for the brand and its sprawling history.
We know, by now, that Demna is a creator of moments. This sentiment tracks back all the way to his first days at Vetements. And after countless shows that have left the fashion community reeling for days, his second couture collection unsurprisingly matched that energy.
Balenciaga's 51st Haute Couture show began with a love poem, spoken by AI, that Demna reportedly wrote for his husband, who would later be seen walking in the show. Models emerged, faces covered by reflective face sheilds and bodies encased in a sci-fi kind of neoprene, which looked as though it had been moulded to the body in a classically Demna way. Was it fetish? Was it dystopian? Was it alien? In Demna's multiverse, it's all three.
As the soundscape switched over to a version of Love in E Minor by BFRND, the looks flitted to a more classically couture approach. There were encrusted mini dresses and crystal netted gowns. One dress emerged that appeared to be fully covered in sky blue feathers. Upon looking closer, it could have just been feather-shaped fabric. Then, it was back to the streetwear influence Demna is known so well for – a true representation of himself as a designer who is still exploring the future of the brand while proving that he is capable of doing both.
Hoodies, sweatshirts, worn-out denim, and parkas, the lot was presented as part of the collection. This was also the half that will presumably be available to purchase in the new Balenciaga Couture store in Paris which only recently opened.
Then came his nod to the past and Cristobél's legacy, referencing shapes from late 50s and early 60s collections like sharp, gathered lines, exaggerated hips, and voluminous ruching. In 2022, the face shields came off and the gowns came to life. What was revealed underneath, was a slew of celebrities, nailing down the potential for a pop-culture frenzy. In the last 7 exits, out came Dua Lipa, Bella Hadid, Kim Kardashian, Nicole Kidman, and Naomi Campbell, followed by returning face of the house Inti Wang, and Balenciaga's bride of the season, Ajok Madel, who emerged in a larger-than-life wedding dress made from layers and layers of tulle and finished with a floor length front facing beaded veil.
As Demna commands more attention than ever, he also begins to make things more personal. Take his Fall Winter 22 show for example, where he referenced the war in Ukraine and touched on his own experience as a refugee. As Demna peels back the layers of himself, he's drawing us further into his world. If the neoprene fits, we'll take it.
Watch Balenciaga's 51st Haute Couture Show, below.