22nd July 2021 Demna Gvasalia, the Creative Director of Balenciaga, discusses his first Haute Couture collection for the house, and the revival of Balenciaga Haute Couture. 

Fifty-three years after the original Balenciaga salon was closed with Cristóbal Balenciaga’s final and 49th show, the company’s Haute Couture has now been revived for Autumn Winter 2021/22 with its 50th collection by Demna and hats by Philip Treacy.

The show was presented on Avenue George V in front of an audience of famous faces, including François-Henri Pinault of the Kering luxury group.

Demna with Suzy in Paris earlier this year

Demna spoke to me about his tough, unsettling early life; the start of his career, working in Antwerp, Belgium, with Martin Margiela; and then his introduction to high-level fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris.

As if the exceptional story of Cristóbal Balenciaga were not enough, what about Demna Gvasalia’s development as a designer who started his life in war-torn Georgia and is now a highly creative force in Paris fashion today?

He and his brother Guram took a bold course by launching Vetements in 2014. An aggressively anti-high-fashion company, its ‘cheap’ bags and basic clothes emblazoned with the logos of pedestrian companies such as DHL, stunned the fashion world – not least when Demna joined Balenciaga the following year.

In my podcast, the designer discusses his play on the classic with the strange and elegant: massive sneakers worn with evening clothes or Philip Treacy‘s ‘mushroom’ hats. This is what makes Balenciaga unique among its fashion rivals, and makes the return of Haute Couture to a Parisian house all the more dramatic, especially when Christian Dior called Cristóbal “the Master of us all”.

At the age of 40, the designer has channelled his disturbing and ever-changing childhood into the calm of creativity. The idea of bringing back to life the haute couture of a historic brand has proved daring – and smart.