blade runner

As Balenciaga’s newest boutique opens its doors at Tysons Galleria, Luxeicon looks at the knife-sharp rise of luxury brand, then and now.

By Mosha Lundstrӧm Halbert

A couturier must be an architect for design, a sculptor for shape, a painter for color, a musician for harmony, and a philosopher for temperance,” ​​Cristóbal Balenciaga famously said at the height of his mid-century fashion trajectory. Indeed, the Spanish-born designer’s legacy of disciplined provocation undercut with extreme elegance lived on long after he retired in 1968.

And today, this multifaceted yet definitive approach still characterizes the historic Parisian fashion house bearing his Basque-origined surname. Propelled forward by iconoclastic creative director Demna Gvasalia, the brand continues its riveting journey, oftentimes choosing the more daring route, with irreverent pit stops along the way. 

Call it Balenciaga 3.0

Originally known for dressing societal swans such as Mona von Bismarck, Rachel L. Mellon, and Jackie Onassis, Hollywood soon took note and Baleciaga went on to woo Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, and Ava Gardner with his avant-garde fluid forms. 

It’s worth noting that during the naughties, the house reestablished itself from a dusty and over-licensed brand to a trend and accessory thought leader. Under Ghesquiere, each season went in an unexpected direction, whereas by contrast, Demna’s work flows as a constant continuum, with strong send-ups on house codes such as the sack dress, exaggerated tailoring, and bursting florals. In turn, current Demna-era Balenciaga is coveted by a new host of boldface dressers. Think: Rihanna, Cate Blanchett, Lewis Hamilton, and Euphoria’s Alexa Demie in custom couture looks that cut through the sea of red carpet sameness. Or Dua Lipa at her most scintillating and streamlined in Balenciaga’s Pantaleggings with attached Blade boots. His team has also developed a cunning knack for break out accessories, from Triple S Sneakers, to hit bags such as the curvy La Cagole and Hourglass styles.

But it’s not just winning designs that Demna, the co-founder and former creative director of disruptive fashion collective Vetements, brings to the table. . It’s also the world he cultivates, juxtaposing mainstream celebrities including current campaign stars Kim Kardashian and Justin Bieber (in the newest Defender sneakers), with more under-the-radar and insouciant talents like French actress Isabelle Huppert. And in an industry where collaborations are abundant and often underwhelming, Balenciaga compels us to take notice. Take its unprecedented hook-up with Kering Group sister label Gucci on 2021’s Hacker Project, which saw Balenciaga signatures whipped up in Gucci’s double G coated canvas, brazenly finished with BB brand hardware. Instant collectibles. 

Never one to alienate or overdress, Demna also redesigned humble, comfort-driven Crocs to much controversy, but ultimately aplomb, with a new hardshell platform version modeled by transgender actor Elliot Page. And most recently, the house lent its streetwear savoir faire to Ye and Gap for a hotly-anticipated threeway capsule collection of t-shirts and denim staples—basics turned Balenciaga bonafides. 

And with its newest store at Tysons Galleria, D.C. is set to usher in a new fashion administration. A fitting addition for the District of Cool.

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