balenciaga haute couture collection 53rd


The 53rd Balenciaga Haute Couture collection invited its spectators to look inward instead of solely focusing on the world around them. Fixing what’s inside first will lead to a more peaceful world. Cover image: courtesy of Balenciaga



“Create a path towards a happier life,” echoed an AI-generated voice-over in the salon-styled space where the 53rd Balenciaga Haute Couture collection was presented. This is a striking choice compared to the raw, unfiltered, and edgy rock-worthy tunes Balenciaga’s Demna usually chooses. Front row, Anna Della Russo closed her eyes for a moment until she shockingly opened them right in time to witness the first look. While the voice-over dictated to inhale and exhale slowly with eyes closed, there wasn’t much time to do so: models entered the runway wearing big feather-embellished hats and layered garments. Despite needing a moment of rest, Demna left no time to waste. So, to “keep you focused on the breaths you take” is excellent advice in general; the Balenciaga audience probably needs to postpone the practice until later tonight.

Among the first looks of the Balenciaga Haute Couture collection was some signature Demna denim – fully layered, covering the body from head to toe. “Sensory deprivation, but make it haute couture,” Demna must have thought when developing this collection. “Consider what it means to you to live a truly happy life,” the voice-over continued. “What would it allow you to do? What would it bring? Think about a color you associate with happiness – there are no rights or wrongs here. Choose what makes you comfortable and happy.” Suddenly, the butterflies on the models’ faces made more symbolic sense than Demna’s ensembles usually do at first glance. Besides playfully referencing Balenciaga’s Butterfly Mask Sunglasses, they are often associated with transformation, rebirth, and change. And, of course, their lifecycle – from caterpillar to cocoon and then to a butterfly – is a metaphorical journey that many can relate to; Demna is undoubtedly part of the group.


The layered outfits, protecting the body like a cocoon, were one-on-ones from the cocooning stage of the butterfly. They were also clearly a reference to the current state of the world, one in which clothes, once again, fulfill the need to be protected. A protective layer enables the wearer to look inwards, to forget what’s happening in the world. A much-needed break, so to speak. The voice-overs sensual voice dictating to make you “Feel the negative energy leaving your body” couldn’t be more on point now. For those in the know, cocoon-shaped silhouettes are a playful nod to Cristóbal Balenciaga’s designs. The collection features wrap jackets crafted in leather, denim, and nylon, encapsulating the cocooning effect while adding structured volume. Additionally, the sleeves find their way onto more casual garments, such as a hoodie and a t-shirt, the latter hand-painted by artist Abdelhak Benallou.

Even though the clothes were beautifully crafted, they were not very new regarding Denna’s signature. That isn’t a must, though. Regarding haute couture, there’s much more than new trends and generalness. It’s about craftsmanship, creating brand awareness, and setting the stage for a house’s message instead. And that’s precisely what Demna did, in a beautiful way. There were some striking looks besides the feathered hats and butterfly-covered faces. Some sculptural dresses reminded me of one of Jacquemus’ latest collections (but was he a first?), and the belt dress seemed to refer to an earlier Martin Margiela design. But isn’t that what fashion is all about? Reinventing the old, like a never-ending circle of life. A cycle that keeps reinventing itself, like butterflies in nature. And according to Demna, that’s the most critical perspective in life. It takes practice to do so, the voice-over emphasized. “In previous sessions, we cultivated different ways of joy. It takes practice. It’s easier to hope that we become naturally happier. But we can cultivate these things. It starts by turning our awareness outwards. Recognizing when our thoughts are just focused on ourselves. In our next session, we will explore more paths to happiness – in the meantime, I wish you a very good day.”

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