When asked who the Balenciaga couture customer is today, creative director Demna’s response is more straightforward than one would imagine: “Anyone who is interested in couture and can afford to invest in it.” And if the maison’s 51st Couture collection showcased at its Paris-based couture salon earlier this year is anything to go by, the awe-inspiring energy surrounding made-to-measure clothing hasn’t waned in the slightest. The interest—the interest composed by Demna, in particular—has certainly been one for the books.
Balenciaga and Demna initially made waves in 2021 with news of their second coming of couture—the maison’s first showing in 54 years. Weave in the Georgian fashion designer’s penchant for both the esoteric and the pragmatic and it’s no wonder that the venture has been wildly well-received. “I am a realist in my design approach because my interest is in creating a desirable product, but this does not mean that I don’t want to or am not capable of dreaming. So, couture is a perfect combination of both to me. This is why I feel so comfortable and at home with it,” he shares. The result? An assortment of both the practical and show-stopping, from futuristic all-black neoprene ensembles—Demna’s take on gazar, a type of silk that was utilised by Cristóbal Balenciaga during his tenure—to speaker bags made in collaboration with Danish speaker electronics giant, Bang & Olufsen.
The 59-look collection began with models accessorised in face shields—to the layman, they looked like midnight-black globes–which were coated polyurethane contraptions engineered by Mercedes-AMG F1 Applied Science. Constructed with anti-fog capability and breathability in mind, they accompanied the majority of the line-up’s monochromatic looks. Just as audiences got acquainted with a sense of anonymity, they were greeted with familiarity on a different level. From Nicole Kidman and Kim Kardashian to Dua Lipa and Bella Hadid, the salon was quickly swarming with an air of celebrity. Kidman donned a metallic, crushed asymmetrical gown; Kardashian, a body-conscious black dress coupled with Balenciaga’s ever-popular leggings-meets-shoes. When asked if this dichotomy was deliberate, Demna states: “Everything I do is intentional.”
Speaking to Demna both before and after Balenciaga’s 51st Couture showing in July, Vogue Singapore discusses the evolution of couture, the makings of a designer as well as the art of collaboration.
What have the last few months leading up to Balenciaga’s 51st Couture show looked like for you?
It has been like all other months: a mix of fittings and creative brainstorming with my teams. I usually get excited about showing my collection to everyone a couple of days before the shows. Most of the time I finish work early enough the day before the show so I can go home and cook dinner with my husband. I need routine most of the time.
Congratulations on being named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world. What do you hope to impart to those who have been following your work?
It’s a great honour. I have never thought or dreamt of such a title. However, I never think about making an impact. I always just think about doing my work as well as possible.
“To be a good designer, you need to have a creative vision and to have hyper-sensibility in order to make something that creates desire.”
Cecil Beaton has stated that Cristóbal Balenciaga created “the future of fashion”. What aspects of Balenciaga’s legacy infiltrate your work to this day?
Cristóbal Balenciaga is often on my mind, but I do not try to focus on the past. If Balenciaga has created the future of fashion, this is part of his legacy that I am most interested in carrying further into the future now.
What do you think makes a good designer today and how has this changed over the years?
To be a good designer, you need to have a creative vision and to have hyper-sensibility in order to make something that creates desire. You also need to know about 3D construction and pattern-making and the basics of sewing.It is absolutely inevitable that you will have to create shapes and volumes in proportion and relation to the human body.
What might a conversation between Cristóbal Balenciaga and Demna sound like today?
It would be a conversation about the relationship between the human body and the fabric around it. It would also be a conversation about silhouettes, the perfect sleeve head on a tailored jacket and maybe a conversation about God and religion, as well.
The collection featured collaborations with Bang & Olufsen andMercedes-AMG F1 Applied Science. Can you tell us more about this?
I only collaborate when I know that the know-how of the other party will bring something to me that would be hard to achieve, or that it has pure marketing value. We cannot make speakers or the aerodynamics of a face shield ourselves, so we need to go to other companies to work with. I think it’s a pretty cool experience to share.
“You will not see Balenciaga Couture in the metaverse. Couture is a real thing that will never be digital.”
How did you go about picking the perfect looks for Naomi Campbell, Dua Lipa, Bella Hadid, Kim Kardashian and Nicole Kidman?
I was very excited to see how beautiful and perfect they looked in the dresses that we specially designed for each of them. No matter how big the influence or fame of a person, everybody just wants to look amazing and attractive. It is my job as a couturier to assure this, whether its Kim, Nicole,Naomi, Dua or Bella. I never design something better for someone because they are famous. I always try to design as well as I possibly can.
If you had to pick a favourite look from this collection, which would it be and why?
Danielle Slavik’s dress, which is Look 51. It was the most emotionally charged piece of clothing I have ever made.
Over a quarter of the collection is made from upcycled materials. What role does sustainability play within couture?
How can I be not sensitive to it? I read the news every day. But I’d rather not speak about sustainability but actually do something, even if it’s never enough at this point.
Within the metaverse, where do you think the future of fashion lies?
You will not see Balenciaga Couture in the metaverse. Couture is a real thing that will never be digital.
And finally, what’s next?
You will see in July of next year.