Say what you want about Balenciaga, but they’ve never been known to be shy about showing off their often extravagant handiwork. The latest display of the Spanish fashion house’s audacious work marked a big in-house milestone, as back in July, Balenciaga presented their Fall/Winter 2021 Haute Couture collection, their first haute couture collection since the departure of their namesake designer Cristobal Balenciaga in 1967, over 50 years prior. The immensely well-received collection, which was fronted by Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia, then broke new ground in another way, as for the first time, it headed across the world to China for a unique special attraction.
Twenty-nine pieces from the collection were featured at the revamped TANK Shanghai, a repurposed former aviation tanker that is now used for exhibits and events and was recently refurbished to accommodate the event. In typically Balenciaga fashion, the event was far more conspicuous than simply having a few dresses on display for onlookers to admire. The five-day celebration of Gvasalia’s collection featured a myriad of tours, fittings and performances in the extravagant venue which featured a showroom, grand hall, a banquet hall and, of course, a haute couture salon. The busy interior paid homage to the salons of the past which Balenciaga would have once called home, bringing the aesthetics of the 1930’s Paris fashion scene to a brand new time and place.
The pieces themselves were separated into two areas, the first nineteen were displayed in a showroom, modelled by a collection of ‘invisible’ mannequins, creating the illusion of ‘floating’ dresses surrounding the centre of the circular room. Among these nineteen was a brand new, never-before-seen piece designed specifically for this unique and exclusive event. The remaining 11 pieces were presented in traditional bespoke couture dressing suites situated along the banks of the Huangpu River. Gvasalia had expressed his excitement in bringing his landmark collection to a brand-new audience, remarking that he was “proud to share with China this very important moment celebrating the culture, craftsmanship, and heritage of Balenciaga.” While the event was a one-off international showcase, the success of the event means we likely won’t have to wait another half century for Balenciaga.