Demna’s latest couture offering for Balenciaga is one of those rare fashion shows where the runway is more studded than the front row. Which is quite a feat when you consider that the discrete salon in which the brand presented their Autumn/Winter 2022-23 haute couture collection (billed simply as their ’51st’) was packed full with Kris Jenner, Tracee Ellis Ross, North West, Steve McQueen, Offset, and Alexa Demie. Demna enlisted a coterie of his brand muses to present the 59-look collection, including Kim Kardashian, Dua Lipa, Selling Sunset‘s Christine Quinn and—perhaps most surprisingly—Nicole Kidman, alongside veteran supermodels like Bella Hadid and Naomi Campbell. The end result? Total Instagram and TikTok domination.

It’s the kind of move that could feel gimmicky coming from another brand, but Demna has always backed up clever media marketing with undeniably great clothes. This couture collection, only the second since Balenciaga revived their couture atelier last year, was among the Georgian designer’s best work to date. The opening eight looks were made entirely of black rubber, fitted to the body with a superb attention to detail. They were followed by a smattering of embellished evening gowns with dramatic, structured silhouettes—hourglass shapes bought to life with heavy embroidery, or hand-painted feathers, intricately woven tweed.

Balenciaga Couture Fall Winter 2023
Image: Courtesy of Balenciaga

When Demna unveiled his debut couture collection this time last year, it was met with audible gasps, the possible highest praise from a fashion crowd that is notoriously hard to please. In that outing he revealed a refreshingly modern take on what can feel like an old fashioned proposition (couture’s one-off pieces are made for a brands ultra-wealthy clients and will never be made available to the general public): he spent three months crafting the “perfect” white T-shirt, and couture-ified denim by hunting down the best cotton mills in Japan. “It is the most spiritual experience I ever had in fashion,” Gvasalia told The Business of Fashion at the time. “I feel like doing couture just makes me better as a person.”

We saw this potent blend of ‘couture casual’ for fall winter 2023, too, courtesy of structured denim jackets, slouchy silk tracksuit pants, and shrunken zip-up hoodies. These pieces are a far cry from the opulent, gilded creations usually associated with haute couture, and it is this exact contradiction that makes Demna’s approach to design so exciting. He quickly followed seemingly simple looks—distressed T-shirts that hung ruched and half tucked in, as if by magic—with geometric avant garde dresses that paid homage to the balloon shapes Cristobal Balenciaga created in the 1950s. Christine Quinn modelled a sequin-embellished mini dress with an eight-foot train, Dua Lipa a ruched yellow mini dress (with satin opera gloves, naturally), and Bella Hadid a dramatic strapless gown, finished in emerald satin with a dramatic split down the back.

Balenciaga Couture Fall Winter 2023
Image: Courtesy of Balenciaga

It was the final four looks that really brought a tear to the eye—Nicole Kidman in a dramatic draped evening dress made in metallic silver lamè; Naomi Campbell in a sprawling puffball gown made of black velvet; a draped pink satin creation so opulent, it barely fit through the entrance door; and, finally, a traditional “couture bride” look with a dramatic hoop skirt and large crystal-embellished veil. The latter looks were so remarkable that they did the impossible: overshadowed Kim Kardashian’s (still iconic) runway debut.

It was the kind of collections that, at the risk of sounding too sincere, makes people fall in love with fashion—for the first time, or, for a cynical veteran, all over again. Bravo Demna.

Balenciaga Couture Fall Winter 2023
Image: Courtesy of Balenciaga
Balenciaga Couture Fall Winter 2023
Image: Courtesy of Balenciaga
Balenciaga Couture Fall Winter 2023
Image: Courtesy of Balenciaga
Balenciaga Couture Fall Winter 2023
Image: Courtesy of Balenciaga
Balenciaga Couture Fall Winter 2023
Image: Courtesy of Balenciaga
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