At Paris Couture Week, Georgian designer Demna posed an interesting question during his second outing of couture for Balenciaga – exactly who is couture for? Or, perhaps it more to the point – where is it for? Because by asking who it is for would also suggest that the rarified world of couture is something accessible to the average person.
(That’s not entirely true either. A new Balenciaga store opened in Paris’ 8th arrondissement, on Avenue Georges V, does somewhat to connect the ends of Demna’s creative Kinsey scale, where the brand’s strong youth-oriented groupies can potentially invest in upcycled Balenciaga, souvenir figures(!) and perhaps the most visually striking accessory of the season: the “speaker” bag created in collaboration with Bang & Olufson that is both functional stereo and purse.)
What Demna did offer, rather, was a way of looking at how the techniques and craftsmanship of the art can be subverted into something that the fans of the brand could not only understand but also ties into the broader conversation of happening at Balenciaga. Streetwear has been where Balenciaga has found its strongest cult-like following – sneakers, shredded rave gear and athleticwear – and these silhouettes are now becoming part of the couture lexicon at Balenciaga. Can we truly accept a denim couture? Or track pants? Demna thinks so. The wearability of couture shouldn’t solely be for the purpose of runway or red carpet and the Georgian designer is determined to see a couture that can be worn, perhaps not quite casually but definitely more readily.
How he sees these ideas evolving for the brand will be fascinating to watch, especially given the attention being directed at the brand right now. That Balenciaga has been voted as the most influential, and hottest, brands owes much to the cult of personality of its current creative director as it does to Demna’s creative vision. This symbiotic relationship fashion has with fame and infamy is one that Demna is clearly sensitive to, considering his choice of models and muses that were either utterly unrecognisable behind black face masks or some of the most famous people on the planet a la Nicole Kidman, Dua Lipa, Kim Kardashian and Naomi Campbell.
In comparison to the debut couture collection, the entire show was clearly more personal to Demna’s tastes, although the house codes were still given homage. Inspired by gazar, the sculptural silk that was invented by Cristobal himself, Demna transformed the fabric into something new for today: fetish-inspired neoprene, all-over body encasing looks that had stepped straight out of the metaverse. In the future, we are all just anonymous shells. Cotton was also bonded with aluminium to create an entirely new fabric, one that could be moulded and shaped and retain its position.