Balenciaga Is Returning to Haute Couture

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Balenciaga S/S20 haute couture Demna Gvasalia
Balenciaga Spring/Summer 2020

This July, the storied house of Balenciaga – which began as a couture house run by its eponymous founder Cristóbal Balenciaga – will stage its first couture show in over 50 years

Cristóbal Balenciaga is often cited as one of the greatest couturiers in the history of fashion; Christian Dior is quoted as having said he was “the master of us all”, while Coco Chanel called him “the only real designer”. In 1968, the Spanish designer shuttered his eponymous couture house, which had been located on Paris’ Avenue George V since August 1937, and marked the end of haute couture for the house of Balenciaga (the label was resurrected in 1986 and started releasing ready-to-wear collections). It’s been announced today, however, that Balenciaga will return to couture this year, staging its first show in over 50 years in July.

Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s artistic director, has reimagined some of Cristóbal’s most famed and innovative couture silhouettes for the 21st century since his debut at the house in 2016, from body-sculpting padded hips (Gvasalia’s crafted using 3D scanning and printing technology) to cocoon-shaped jackets. “Balenciaga himself was a master, and the archives of the clothes from that time are from a specific point of view,” Gvasalia said at the time. “My idea was to reinterpret and modernise it and see how we can work with traditional means of tailoring.”

In a statement released to mark the news of Balenciaga’s return to its haute couture roots, Gvasalia says: “Haute couture is the very foundation of this house, so it is my creative and visionary duty to bring couture back. For me, couture is an unexplored mode of creative freedom and a platform for innovation. It not only offers another spectrum of possibilities in dressmaking, it also brings the modern vision of Balenciaga back to its sources of origin.” In a show of reverence for Balenciaga’s couture foundations, the house is creating salons at the same Avenue George V address, modelled on those of Cristóbal’s era, and a dedicated team will work on the new couture offerings. 

Gvasalia orchestrated something of a viral social media moment at Balenciaga’s Spring/Summer 2020 ready-to-wear show in September of last year with a series of ball gowns that formed the collection’s final looks. The dresses were couture-like in their splendour and also referenced some of Cristóbal’s original couture shapes – possibly offering a glimpse of what might come in July with Gvasalia’s revived haute couture. “Ballroom dresses go back to the beginning of Balenciaga, when [Cristóbal] started in Spain. It was mostly this type of silhouette he did, from Spanish painting,” the designer said at the time.