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Digital chaos and dystopian present coexist with history and tradition at Balenciaga

«It is the decay that I find interesting, much more than something freshly made» Demna Gvasalia took a page out of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s book for his first couture collection

Balenciaga’ fiftieth collection. Demna Gvasalia’s haute couture debut 

In the 1940’s researchers began to look for ways to initiate and control fusion reactions to produce useful energy on earth, leading to an improvement in human life. Fusion has touched many fields of societies, bringing to an evolution that can be found in modern times. It revealed as releasing energy – a source of power. What happened in physics is not far from the figurative reactions fashion industry has witnessed over the last hundred years. In a dialogue with the past, Demna Gvasalia has recreated the reality imbued with Balenciaga’s old spirit, with garments that reflected a past existence. A historic show in a historic location. The doors of the restored halls of founder Cristóbal Balenciaga’s original salon at 10 Avenue Georges V reopened for Demna Gvasalia’s couture debut. They had been closed for more than half century after its founder retired in 1968. Balenciaga restored the salons to how they looked when the founder first opened the Maison in 1937. The space featured the original elevator and stairs, used to serve couture clients, as the backdrop of the atmosphere Gvasalia was bent on creating. The creative designer’s haute couture presentation was held in silence – a nod to how Balenciaga had worked – which let the audience focus on the line, the cut and the presence of his clothes. «His spirit is somewhere in these walls» said Gvasalia «It is the decay that I find interesting, much more than something freshly made». Cristóbal Balenciaga had a primary role in the history of haute couture. Christian Dior referred to him as “the master of us all”. He loved to dress women, bring out their femininity with the silhouettes of his creations. Balenciaga had a deep knowledge of his craft: he knew how to cut, shape the fabric to recreate what he had envisioned; this knowledge allowed him to invent volume, sleeves and necklines, becoming the architect of haute couture. Half a century later, Gvasalia is rebuilding Balenciaga’s couture origins as an unexplored mode of creative freedom and platform for innovation: «Haute Couture is the very foundation of this house» said the designer in a statement «So it is my creative and visionary duty to bring couture back». That process of conversing with the past, altering and fusing shapes and structures is taking Balenciaga forward.  Gvasalia’s Balenciaga couture revival is one of a utopian world where the digital present can co-exist with tradition and history, in a collection which is addressing something different, an alternative reality to tech-driven worlds of computer games and cloned shows that the designer has been exploring these past few years. 

The architectural dialogue between Gvasalia and Balenciaga 

In 1951 the Sci Fi film, When Worlds Collide painted a vision of the future of mankind on earth, a prospect for blended reality, in which the physical and digital worlds collide. By fusing these elements, the possibilities are endless. By eliminating filters and limitations, blended reality enables different expressions. Today, as the industry is trying to decode contemporaneity with its digital language, Cristóbal Balenciaga’s memory is entrusted to Demna Gvasalia, who has to mend this highspeed present with the Maison’ heritage and traditions. «We can’t just look to the future. We have to look into the past to see where we are going» declares the designer «We are experiencing the digital chaos of fashion. Its essence is one of my tools and I understood that couture is the best way to manifest it» Parallels between the past and the present are not a mere stylistic exercise, even though the core of Gvasalia’s couture collection is the clothes. People know the essence of his creativity, they know his intent since he was in Vetements, that of giving value to every garment worn. His mission is to create a wardrobe with a sense of generic authenticity, coded with the sociological irony that was read and bought by a generation of millennials. Joining Balenciaga allowed the designer to blend the architecture of the founder’s silhouettes and history with what represents him. As Gvasalia declared, Balenciaga is architecture, it is not design or decoration, it is an architectural story, and clothes are the first layer that dresses the body. Less ornamentation, and more structure from human forms, accentuating posture and attitude. The designer has often referenced Balenciaga’s archives, sampling from the sculptural tailoring and silhouettes, melding them into his design vision. Two worlds coming together into a series of juxtapositions: one can’t cancel the other – they coexist at the same time. Since his arrival in 2015 Gvasalia has been reviving Balenciaga’s couture silhouettes through the founder’s creation: from the Autumn Winter 2018’s curvy padded-hip jackets to the structured, sculptural gowns that closed his Spring Summer 2020 show. «I’m entering a different time in my life» said the designer «Most people put me in a box, that of who makes hoodies and sneakers. For me, this is an opportunity to show who I really am, as a creator. This collection is a translation»

Cristóbal Balenciaga’s original salon at 10 Avenue Georges V

Lampoon reviews Balenciaga’s Haute Couture collection

Many of the looks echoed the founder’s creations, from the balloon dress to the cocoon coat. Black suits for man and women dominated the first part of the collection, together with tailored jackets and denim silhouettes. The designer played with the sack dress: nipped in at the waist, with a portrait collar wrenched out at the clavicle to form peaks around the neck and swollen at the shoulder blades. They came in fluorescent orange, gabardine, silver faux fur but also denim itself. Other looks included an off-shoulder long sleeve jumpsuit with an oversized bow on the front covered in polka dots, as well as the faux fur jacket paired with jeans. Gvasalia’s debut collection focused on how to imbue these garments with couture, allure and attitude, as he declared. «It was a challenge to find a balance between the fusion of the architectural legacy, the history, and what I stand for», explains the designer. He took the meaning of Haute Couture while connoting it with a deeper meaning: the freedom to express his creativity without any form of constraint, both in style and with gender. A swing-back t-shirt in padded black satin with fluted sleeves is paired with loose jeans. Parkas and anoraks are turned into cloaks in ruby, pink and chrysoprase. Models also wore wide-brimmed black hats made by British milliner Philip Treacy. Hand-embroidered C.B. initials showed up on the silk ties, poplin shirts and leather gloves – an homage to the founder’s personal style. Gvasalia paid tribute through direct references of Balenciaga’s design, with pieces including a floral-embroidered gown inspired by an original archive made for Jacqueline Kennedy. The bride who closed the show, as is traditional in haute couture, wore a two piece sculptural white dress, with which Balenciaga himself scandalized Paris over half a century ago. It wasn’t an homage to the heritage, because that would mean to stay only in the past; he aimed to reach a fusion of two creative designs, transforming Haute Couture to something that rings true to the digital world. This is our present. 

Cristóbal Balenciaga and Demna Gvasalia couture

A dual spirit across the century. Staged at Cristóbal Balenciaga’s original salon at 10 Avenue Georges V, Balenciaga’s fiftieth collection opened a dialogue with different generations. Staying true to the founder’s heritage, Gvasalia unveiled the architectural language of Balenciaga’s history, resetting the narrative of the contemporary digital chaos.

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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