“Before being a garment, haute couture is an experience”

The appointment is given at the George V. The Parisian brasserie could not have been chosen for its decoration. “Library” wallpaper in trompe-l’oeil, leatherette benches and chandelier with tassels have neither the charm of vintage nor the appeal of modernity. Mr. Balenciaga used to come here ”, explains Demna Gvasalia. With his happy face, we feel that the artistic director of Balenciaga (Kering group) is happy to carry on the tradition. Across the avenue, at number 10, are the historic haute couture salons. Behind, avenue Marceau, the church in which Cristobal Balenciaga, fervent Catholic, visited regularly. Halfway, the great couturier stopped here for his coffee.

On the day of the interview, it was impossible to see the haute couture salons, “Not quite finished”, nor to attend the light tests designed for the July 7 parade. Everything has to be perfect. This 185 m2 space, divided into a large entrance hall which serves a reception room surrounded by two small lounges and fitting rooms, is located just above the store on Avenue George-V. It has not received visitors since 1968, when the fashion house was closed by Cristobal Balenciaga himself, who, then 73, tired from a career started at 12 as an apprentice tailor in the Spanish Basque Country, had preferred to give up his job rather than give in to the sirens of a time he no longer understood and the ready-to-wear that was beginning to dress him.

In recent years, therefore, the Balenciaga salons were used to store … mainly sneakers. Demna Gvasalia has decided to restore them not to the same but in such a way that when the guests enter on July 7, they have the impression of opening a door that has remained closed for fifty-three years. With all the effects of time on the hangings, paintings, floors. Curtains whitewashed by the sun, decrepit walls and frames.

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This idea of ​​time, that which passes, that which one takes, is fundamental for the creative director at the helm of Balenciaga fashion since 2015. And according to him, haute couture is the last space of freedom for a designer. Because, unlike a ready-to-wear stylist, “A couturier does not think in terms of the price of admission. All he takes care of is making a unique garment, for a unique person. An ecological and modern garment in essence since we do not produce what we do not sell ”, answers Demna Gvasalia when asked if relaunching this activity in 2021 is not anachronistic. He also plans to offer only one haute couture collection per year, and to show men in this glamorous and ultra-luxury format usually reserved for women.

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