On July 6th, 2022, Balenciaga presents its 51st Couture Collection, Demna’s 2nd for the House. It draws on and further develops the Balenciaga legacy using advanced technology and traditional techniques. Collaborations with artisans and industrial design visionaries lend another layer of technical craftsmanship and technological innovation. 

Japanese limestone-based neoprene is introduced to the Couture vocabulary as a modern version of Gazar, the fabric invented for Cristóbal Balenciaga. Looks are completed with 3D-printed padding and wetsuit-inspired zip closures. Accessorizing the looks are face shields in coated polyurethane engineered by Mercedes-AMG F1 Applied Science, a division of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix Ltd. dedicated to leveraging aerospace and motorsport tech. Their aerodynamism, anti-fog capability, and breathability was developed over months of testing. 

The show’s music is played on individual speakers held by runway models as they walk, part of a collaboration with Bang & Olufsen. The Speaker Bag is a functional purse as well as a portable state-of-the-art sound system that is milled from a block of solid aluminum before being pearl-blasted, anodized, and hand- polished over a several-day period. 

Paillettes create illusory effects with unconventional textures, alluding to raw edges with meticulously finished embroidery. A trompe l’oeil tweed is achieved by interspersing organza or jersey ribbons with beads and sequins. A crystal- beaded fishnet gown, sequined dresses, and jet-beaded jeans take up to thousands of hours to hand-sew. 

T-shirts are bonded with aluminum, creating an entirely new fabric that holds its shape when manipulated. Japanese denim is indigo selvedge washed, satin- lined, and finished with silver-plated buttons. Corsetry is incorporated into men’s tops, creating extreme silhouettes alongside Basque waist wool coats.

Over a quarter of the collection is made with upcycled items. Vintage bombers, parkas, car coats, and jeans are deconstructed and reassembled, transforming two garments into a newly structured one. Methodically sourced belts and wallets become intricate patchworks. Antique wrist watches are recontextualized as jewelry.

Feathers are simulated via multiple embroidery techniques, using boned organza or cut silk. Faux fur is achieved with high-definition photography mapping and weeks of programming. In the case of a leopard coat, 150 kilometers of thread is hand tufted.

Draped dresses with trains, capes, scarf tops, bows, and gathered skirts reinterpret archival pieces with exclusive colors, specially developed fabric treatments, shiny coatings, extreme silhouettes, and hand-manipulated paillettes. A veiled wedding gown made with 250 meters of varying tulle references an archival motif. Its 7,500-hour embroidery process uses 25 types of paillettes and beads, including 70,000 crystals, 80,000 silver leaves, and 200,000 sequins.

Looks Images: Julia Nobis, Eliza Douglas, Marie Kippe, Ajok Madel, Christine Quinn and Inti Wang.