Balenciaga, a renowned fashion brand known for its innovative and boundary-pushing designs, was founded by Cristóbal Balenciaga in 1919 and has since become one of the most influential fashion houses in the world.
Under the creative direction of Demna Gvasalia, who took over in 2015, Balenciaga has gained further recognition for its unconventional and daring approach to fashion. Gvasalia is known for challenging fashion norms and creating avant-garde designs that blur the lines between high fashion and streetwear. Balenciaga's collections have been characterised by oversized silhouettes, exaggerated proportions, and unexpected combinations of materials.
However, a recent advertising campaign featuring children dressed in bondage-associated costumes sparked controversy for the brand and its designer, Gvasalia. In the aftermath, Balenciaga has worked to restore opinion and is now making a subtle comeback into the public eye as witnessed in the brand's 52nd couture presentation at their Parisian salon with Eliza Douglas gracefully showcased a gleaming, chrome-laminated 3D-printed bell-skirted suit of armour.
The fusion of fashion and technology has emerged as an enthralling realm of exploration for brands in recent years. During Paris Fashion Week's Spring Summer 2023 show, the renowned Parisian fashion brand Coperni utilised Fabrican's sprayable, liquid fibre to create a dress directly on Bella Hadid's body. This unique process revolutionises the traditional approach to garment creation, challenging the boundaries of what is possible in fashion. It opens up exciting opportunities for designers to experiment with new forms, materials, and techniques, fostering an avant-garde and futuristic aesthetic.
For Balenciaga, through the 52nd couture presentation, has utilised technology in its manufacturing processes as the brand has embraced 3D printing technology to create intricate and avant-garde designs. This technology allows for the production of complex shapes and structures that may not be achievable through traditional manufacturing methods. The use of 3D printing enables Balenciaga to explore new horizons of design, creating unconventional pieces that blend high fashion with technology.
The Armoured Dress evoked a sense of a wedding gown intertwined with the attributes of traditional armour. It was crafted using computer-aided design and 3D printing techniques, resulting in a sleek, lustrous chrome exterior. Concealed within its intricate construction was a layer of black flock, reminiscent of the interior of a jewellery box.
The show notes explained the collection as a “tribute to pursuing perfection, which while impossible, is always in the mind of the couturier.”
Gvasalia finds solace in amalgamating human creativity with technology, deriving inspiration from imperfections. The dress exudes an aura of protection, serving as a potential sanctuary for the thoughts of its creator. In this regard, it can be seen as Gvasalia's introspection materialised through his artistic endeavours.
Eliza Douglas (born 1984) is a US contemporary artist known for her paintings, performances, and involvement in sculpture and photography. Douglas started modelling at the age of 12 for Helmut Lang which before this, she was mostly rejected by jobs due to her appearance that was often criticised as too big. Later she caught the attention of Lotta Volkova, a prominent casting director, who recommended her for Demna Gvasalia's debut show at Balenciaga in 2016.
Since then, Douglas has consistently opened or closed every Balenciaga show. She brings her artistic sensibilities and creative energy to the world of fashion, adding depth and character to her runway appearances.
Eliza was opening the show in Balenciaga’s FW 2023. Photo: Courtesy of Balenciaga
Eliza in Balenciaga Show Fall 2018. Photo: Courtesy of VOGUE RUNWAY
Eliza in Balenciaga Show Fall 2017. Photo: Courtesy of VOGUE RUNWAY
Apart from this 3D-printed armoured dress, Balenciaga also challenged fashion’s traditions in Balenciaga's Spring/Summer 2022 show titled "Clones," which featured a small audience and was primarily CGI-based, all 44 looks were modelled by Eliza Douglas. This was achieved through a combination of deepfake technology and Douglas's face being digitally scanned and integrated into the production.
This approach questioned the conventional notions of fashion shows, where live models typically present the clothing. The decision to embrace digital manipulation and virtual presentation showcased Balenciaga's technical prowess and pioneered the new territory for the runway experience. The show demonstrated the brand's willingness to embrace innovation and explore new frontiers. Balenciaga's experimentation and their embrace of technological possibilities underscore a commitment to redefining fashion.
Throughout history, humanity has strived for perfection, both individually and collectively. However, our innate imperfections have limited our progress. Today, with the remarkable advancements in technology, we find ourselves on the precipice of a transformative era. By breaking away from traditional constraints, fashion brands can engage with audiences in new and immersive ways, transcending physical limitations and embracing the digital realm. This evolution reminds us that fashion is an ever-evolving art form, and the fusion of technology and human creativity holds immense potential for shaping the future of fashion in exciting and imaginative ways.