The 53rd Balenciaga Couture Collection illuminates savoir-faire through original techniques and material innovations. Streetwear, goth, skater and metalhead subcultures interact with part minimalistic form and part reimagined glamor. The relationship between fabric, form, the garment and the body is central.

Archival influences are present, yet processes and finishes are modernized. For an opening example: a minimalist and sharp t-shirt is hand-lined with black scuba satin to give it a rarefied effect. This tee reflects a Warhol inspiration: whether the base commodity is a can of soup or an everyday shirt, Demna is interested in not only object intrigue itself, but also, the techniques used to elevate said object into an artform.

Four of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s signature codes are applied to Demna’s style vocabulary: the cocoon silhouette, which emphasizes the space between the garment and the body; the three-quarter bell-shaped sleeve; the extravagant, almost eccentric millinery and fabric innovation. Wrap jackets in leather, denim and nylon a cocooning gesture and give it structured volume in one instance, while three-quarter length sleeves grace a hoodie and a t-shirt hand-painted by the artist Abdelhak Benallou, along with a trompe l’oeil “fur” couture coiffage coat: a piece made of synthetic hair that is shaped and hand-dyed by the hairstylist Gary Gill (this garment takes approximately 2.5 months to make). Hats feature hand-draped and frozen-in-resin t-shirts made in collaboration with the artist Ni Hao, or carbon fiber bodies made in collaboration with the artist Alastair Gibson.

Six closing looks examine the possibilities of materials – and how they might be evolved and reconsidered in regards to their relationship with the body. Material development was also a core focus of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s work.

A white column dress is made of melted and upcycled plastic bags (some retain their original graphics, most have been removed). A draped dress is made of one piece of leather without any cut edges – no darts, no seams, held with a giant safety pin and almost primitive. This piece nods to Cristóbal Balenciaga’s master patternmaking. A bustier column of aluminum foil crunches and melds around the body. Another bustier dress is made of faux fur, but it uses traditional fur patternmaking: tiny strips are cut and sewn together in a herringbone arrangement, mimicking a centuries-old tradition of reusing scraps. (This dress takes 7.5 weeks to produce.) A molded and seamless second skin dress of deep black flocked leather becomes a wearable jewelry vitrine – the garment is worn with an original archival Cristóbal Balenciaga necklace from 1960.

The finale piece suggests an ephemeral wedding dress made of nylon as a re-envisioning of gazar, an ultra-fine fabric that can no longer be made to the standards of Cristóbal’s era. In a choreographed process, the Couture atelier team drapes, staples and sculpts the material – 47 meters of it – directly on the model moments before it is seen. This garment is an ephemeral Couture performance and experience. The piece takes approximately 30 minutes to make and 30 seconds to dissolve.

The magic and poetry and ephemerality of this experience – drape and un-drape – is echoed in the collection’s butterfly motifs. These creatures are beautiful and extraordinary – they are of a perfect design. The butterfly veils feature hundreds of hours of meticulous hand- embroidery and are inspired by the artist Yumi Okita. The butterfly symbolizes transformation, hope and freedom.