Demna’s third couture collection for Balenciaga emerged as an undeniable triumph, leaving no doubt as to his creative prowess. To embark on the journey of this extraordinary show, one must begin with the invitation—an embodiment of Demna’s ingenuity, akin to a couturier’s pin cushion. In yet another collectible gesture for his esteemed guests, Demna presented them with a golden bracelet featuring a sleek metal disc. This invitation, much like the golden thimble before it, exemplified his attention to detail and devotion to perfecting each creation—a hallmark of Demna’s approach to fashion.
Unlike some designers who hastily seek to alter their signature with every collection or merely aim to amass Instagram followers, Demna’s path is one of perpetual refinement and an unwavering pursuit of perfection. Few living designers possess such a distinct and recognizable signature, making Demna’s unwavering commitment all the more admirable.
The show commenced with an enchanting nod to the past, as Danielle Slavik, Cristóbal Balenciaga’s favored fit model from 1965 to 1968, graced the runway. Adorned in Demna’s faithful recreation of her beloved dress from Cristóbal’s era—a resplendent black velvet gown adorned with pearls—Danielle exuded timeless elegance. As a testament to their enduring collaboration, Demna gifted her this dress, ensuring her continued presence in his collections. In this particular showcase, Demna honored Danielle by naming a pair of earrings after her. She wore a meticulously replicated archival pair from 1967, showcasing Demna’s remarkable ability to infuse the world of haute joaillerie with contemporary allure through sophisticated craftsmanship.
For the first time, select pieces from the presentation are now available at the Couture Store, which conveniently maintains the same address as the house of Balenciaga and can be accessed via www.balenciaga.com. This expansion of the couture realm extends beyond garments, offering exclusive items tailored to fit during in-person appointments. The all-encompassing assortment includes jewelry, eyewear, shoes, garments, outerwear, and accessories, echoing the sentiment embodied by the invitation’s elegant bracelet—a physical representation of the collection’s essence.
Speaking of accessories, let us delve into the realm of eyewear—a debut for Balenciaga Couture this season. The sunglasses, crafted with unwavering finesse, encompass two distinct styles. The Regata frames, boasting solid die-cast 18K gold construction, emanate an aura of refined elegance. Meanwhile, another style features a wraparound design available in galvanic 18K gold or palladium-plated milled aluminum. The lenses of the Regata and HRH sunglasses, coated with a mirror-like layer composed of bio-nylon treated with genuine gold or platinum, exemplify the meticulous craftsmanship inherent to couture. Additionally, the Blackout line showcases frames adorned with extra dark-tinted mineral glass lenses encased in acetate derived from wood pulp cellulose and landfill-bound plastic, culminating in temples plated with 18K gold. Alas, if only my pockets aligned with the grandeur of my desires, I would undoubtedly indulge in each of these exquisite eyewear creations.
Among the myriad highlights of Demna’s couture collection were the astonishing trompe l’oeil creations. Ingeniously interpreting various materials, these pieces meticulously crafted an illusion of fur, houndstooth, sharkskin, and denim. Yet, the fabrications themselves were masterfully executed using hand-painted canvas, expertly mimicking a houndstooth blazer, a sumptuous fur coat, and a sleek sharkskin suit. Even the denim jacket and jeans, upon closer inspection, were revealed to be expertly hand-painted cotton.
Some pieces in Demna’s couture collection drew direct inspiration from the inventive designs of Cristóbal Balenciaga himself, reimagining his techniques and volumes with a contemporary twist. A standout piece was a parka featuring a cocoon-like silhouette, meticulously crafted from heat-sealed technical cotton. Another notable creation, deserving of the illustrious Cannes Film Festival’s red carpet, showcased sequins and embroidered corkscrew tulle ribbons of various sizes and curls. Additionally, a cashmere overcoat boasted a scarf stiffened with an innovative knit that had been heat-sculpted to achieve a windswept appearance. However, the grand finale was an awe-inspiring masterpiece—an armor ensemble inspired by Joan of Arc—designed using computer-aided design (CAD), 3D printed, and coated in chromed resin, while its interior was luxuriously lined with velvet.
Continuing the exploration of accessories were the meticulously crafted footwear pieces which concealed internal prosthetics, incorporating patinated leather or velvet through artisanal processes. The collection extended further, encompassing sculptural tailoring shirts crafted from stretch silk, turtlenecks made of matte stretch velvet spun from silk yarns, and unique knits exclusively developed for the House. Raw-edged tuxedos, leather bombers with voluminous collars, and high-waisted seamless boxer shorts echoed the realm of ready-to-wear concepts, embracing minimalistic aesthetics while adorning luxurious fabrics with intricate and precise details.
True to Demna’s immersive approach, every sense was engaged throughout the presentation. The fragrance, expertly curated by Sissel Tolaas—a forensic scientist renowned for introducing anti-depressant molecules at Demna’s previous mud show—featured a captivating blend of smoke, leather, and incense. Complementing the olfactory experience was the AI-assisted soundtrack by BFRND, a musical artist and Demna’s partner, which ingeniously isolated Maria Callas’s ethereal voice from her orchestral backing. This exclusive rendition of Maria Callas’s vocals, a unique auditory masterpiece, transported the audience not into the realm of science fiction, but rather to a place reminiscent of “Back to the Future,” where innovation and artistry seamlessly intertwine.