Paris Haute Couture Week day 3: Balenciaga and Jean Paul Gaultier make triumphant return

Lebanon's Elie Saab also presents his latest collection during the fashion week's penultimate day

Day three of Paris Haute Couture Week brought many astonishing moments, but it will be remembered for the return of Balenciaga after an absence of some 50 years.

The maison's founder, Cristobal Balenciaga, shuttered his atelier in 1968, but now helmed by Demna Gvasalia, the label has returned to the couture calendar – and with much success.

Here, we recap the highlights from the third day of Haute Couture Week, which draws to a close on Thursday evening.

Balenciaga

In a collection that has taken a full year to create, Gvasalia balanced both old and new, elevating his daywear into something astonishing.

Everyday jeans were made from denim hand-woven on vintage looms in Japan, and parka coats were stretched to become watteau-backed, satin ballgowns. A trench coat was recut with a gaping neckline into a chic full-length dress, while a jacket with cantilever shoulders was made from hand-applied silk threads to mimic the shaggy look of fur.

A starkly simple velvet top arrived with a sculpted neck that shifted it into the realm of architecture, while Balenciaga’s famous baby doll dress (yes, he invented it) arrived as a floor-length, funnel-necked parka in shocking pink satin.

Staying true to his desire for genderless clothing, Gvasalia offered looks for both men and women, in materials ranging from satin to bathrobe towelling, and complete with floor-dragging stoles. The return of Balenciaga has been long awaited and, as a debut into couture for Gvasalia, the result was staggering. Just as many Balenciaga originals are now housed in museum collections, we can expect the same for much of this first foray.

Elie Saab

Elie Saab presented a beautiful collection that was an ode to new beginnings told through flowers.

With the unfurling of buds the very epitome of reawakening, the Lebanese designer conjured every iteration across this deeply feminine collection, from fairy tale ball gowns festooned with petals made from feathers, to a sophisticated, asymmetric lace dress held at the waist and shoulder with delicate blooms. A short, nude strapless dress came with a flowing train and a scattering of applique flowers, while a high-necked gown in the same light-as-air tulle had papery blooms gathered around the neck.

A sleek white pant suit came with pearl and bead flowers creeping up and over the shoulder, as fragile sprigs of blossom framed the face on a blush-pink sheath dress. Even bows were reworked to feel floral in this lovely collection, that was light and brimming with freshness, and showed Saab at his best.

Jean Paul Gaultier

Jean Paul Gaultier also returned to the couture calendar, but now under the control of guest designer Chitose Abe, of the label Sacai.

With the full blessing of Jean Paul himself, Abe revisited and reworked many of his most famous pieces, starting with the conical bra circa 1984 – made famous when worn by Madonna. Here, the original peach satin was added to a men's suit that had been taken apart and remade into a fitted corset over a sheer shirt and trousers.

More men's suiting arrived gathered around the ribcage to make a full-length dress, as a trench was reconstructed into a corset-topped dress. A green bomber jacket resurfaced as a fitted, drop-waist dress and matching cape, as even argyle knitwear was reimagined into a strappy, fringed dress, with matching bolero jacket. Naval insignia – another Gaultier trope – arrived as a jacket decorated in frogging that was made of safety pins rather than gold embroidery.

Updated: July 8th 2021, 11:36 AM