What is Haute Couture if it doesn’t provoke, start conversations and poke into ones imagination? For it is the height of dressmaking, where ideas are born to live physically forever and where new techniques are uncovered, preserved for a lifetime to come. Haute Couture is the maximum expression of a luxurious experience — a world so exclusive and exquisite, where Christobal Balenciaga’s creations have been regarded as the ultimate benchmark, take his infamous Spring/Summer 1968 wedding dress for example — a dress held by a single seam.

Balenciaga indeed revolutionized the concept of dressing and was ahead of his time, for perfection was an obligation and a new technical and visual language was unearthed for the women of his age. Today, more than ever, his work is just as relevant, thanks to Balenciaga’s current creative director, the Georgian, Demna Gvasalia.

On the 6th of July 2022, Balenciaga presented in Paris their second Haute Couture collection under Demna. It further develops the Balenciaga legacy by using advanced technology and traditional techniques, through various unexpected collaborations, making room for a new era in design.

While some skeptics may argue that sweaters and t-shirts have no place among a couture line up — why not? What purpose does fashion have if it is not to serve the interests of the people of its time? Demna’s work resonates with the clientele of today, a modern individual who isn’t afraid to question or take risks. Demna, much like Cristobal Balenciaga, is a futurist — his work is not only of the moment, but is in fact of the tomorrow as well, it is thrusting couture forward in ways that continue to challenge the traditional hierarchy of fashion, for it is the democratization of couture. What ties both legacies together beautifully is the fact that although different, Demna continues to draw inspiration from the founder of the house — you can see Cristobal Balenciaga’s legacy preserved, respected and present, but reinterpreted through Demna’s strikingly modern vision, befitting for the digital and metropolitan world we live in today.

Aluminium jersey and aluminum-like Gazar

Look 54, a beautiful bustier bell dress in green technical twill, is a modern reinterpretation of Cristobal Balenciaga’s 1958 dress, while Look 16, an blue silk faux feather knitted dress, takes its inspiration from 1950 dress. However, with the progress of technology, the feathers in this collection were simulated via multiple embroidery techniques using bonded organza or cut silk. Looks 10 and 11, a black beaded fringe embroidered top in viscose and a mini dress in viscose jersey respectively, reminded me of the almost identical black beaded dress from the late 1950’s that I came across at the “Balenciaga and Spanish Paintings” exhibition at the Thyssen-Bornemisza Musuem in Madrid back in 2019. A veiled gown made from 250 varying tulle that referenced an archival motif on which the embroidery took 7,500 hours to complete including 70,000 crystals, 80,000 silver laves and 200,000 sequins, marks a historical reference juxtaposed with a modern twist, albeit, the face shield, made in collaboration with Mercedes-AMG F1 Applied Sciences, draws back to Cristobal Balenciaga and the heritage of the house.

The crinkled t-shirts with boned aluminum, creating an entirely new fabric that holds its shape when manipulated is the new Gazar, and Gazar was the fabric specially conceived for Cristobal Balenciaga. In the early 1960’s the couturier sought to explore new shapes and command of fabrics — sculpting tissues as they saw fit. For Cristobal Balenciaga, this was the creation of Gazar, later Super Gazar, a fabric as stiff as aluminum that lent itself to the creation of architectural shapes. Through its use, Cristobal Balenciaga was able to achieve silhouettes and shapes that may have been impossible to achieve. Demna’s aluminum jersey and Cristobal Balenciaga’s aluminum-like Gazar, while unexpected, are truly remarkable.

Demna, much like Cristobal Balenciaga, is a visionary. They both went against the tide of fashion. Both in different, yet almost identical ways have paved the way for new possibilities in design. This couture collection was a reminder why the craft lies at the heart of fashion’s ecosystem, it is the space where creativity flourishes, for it embodies the manufacturing techniques that are the cutting edge of innovation.

Today, Demna’s influence transcends the wealthy few who can afford a couture garment, it extends to those who dream and seek fashion without constraints.