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Balenciaga's Return to Couture Was Worth the 53-Year Wait

Demna Gvasalia's debut offering fused his refined, yet wry, approach to fashion with Cristobal Balenciaga's iconic shapes.
A look from the Balenciaga Fall 2021 Haute Couture collection. 

A look from the Balenciaga Fall 2021 Haute Couture collection. 

Kanye West, James Harden and Anna Wintour walked into Cristobal Balenciaga's original salon on Wednesday to witness Demna Gvasalia's debut Haute Couture collection for the house. Though, only two appeared to be in attendance, as West donned a full face covering to sit front row. Still, the Yeezy designer was indeed present — and boy, was he lucky. 

It was a day of many firsts: the first time Balenciaga has shown couture since the closure of the house's atelier in 1968; the first time that the brand included men's looks in its couture offering; the first time the Georgian designer designed couture for the label; the first time Ella Emhoff modeled in a couture show. 

The Fall 2021 collection is every bit a love letter to the house's founding father, packed with bold architectural shapes and exaggerated proportions and sticking to the couture presentation format by opening the show with all-black looks, to allow the audience to focus on the silhouettes. Once the impeccable tailoring of the pieces — a series of wool suits for men and women, black-washed denim, double-breasted floor-sweeping coats and padded satin stoles — had been clearly established, the designs become more daring in color, texture, cut and proportion. From a vibrant orange swing-back jacket and skirt to a hybrid of a parka and ball gown in a vivid cerulean hue, Gvasalia takes the haute couture customer somewhere sophisticated and elegant over the rainbow. 

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Texture plays a big role in Balenciaga's couture outing, as does fabric innovation: A sculptural, silver faux fox fur jacket and faux feather coat, are crafted using a silk thread embroidery technique. There's also a hand-pieced skirt, loose-fit jeans in faux crocodile leather and bathrobe-style coats in micro knifed leather rounding out the clever use of fabric in the custom-made assortment. 

As much as the collection is a tribute to the unique heritage of the house, Gvasalia brings his refined, yet wry, vision of fashion into the assortment — think "mom" jeans paired with museum-worthy jackets and bags that resemble cardboard shopping bags for shoeboxes. He's designing for the upper crusts of society who'd want to wear a padded cotton cashmere grey hoodie inspired by Gap and a draped hand-painted polka dot dress in silk chiffon that draws from the brand's archives in the same day. 

Gvasalia closed out the presentation in classic couture style with bridal looks. The first is a floral-embroidered silk jacquard dress on the front and a tailored trouser at the back; the second and final one isa show-stopping long train wedding gown featuring a full-length veil. 

See the complete Balenciaga Fall 2021 Haute Couture collection in the gallery below:

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