WORDS BY ASHLEIGH GRIBBON
A fashion house at the forefront of the industry, Balenciaga is synonymous with creative director Demna Gvasalia’s unmistakable, streetwear-infused energy — a vision shaped by minimalist lo-fi proportions, technical fabrics and instant-cult-status accessories. But this modern-icon label is actually 126 years old, founded by haute couturier Cristobal Balenciaga in 1917. Ahead of shopping Balenciaga’s latest pieces, find out more about its storied history, white-hot collaborations, size and fit recommendations, and the concept behind its latest new-season offering below.
The history of Balenciaga
Founded in 1917 by 22-year-old couturier Cristóbal Balenciaga in his native Spain, Balenciaga (which, phonetically speaking, is pronounced buh·len·see·aa·guh) began as a small luxury fashion house synonymous with expertly constructed, highly sculptural couture pieces — a signature that, naturally, saw the house move to Paris in 1937. At its home on 10 Avenue George V in Paris, the house gained notable success with the release of forward-thinking collections and collaborations, including a creative partnership with famed footwear designer Roger Vivier.
In 1997, following Cristobal Balenciaga’s death in 1972, the label took on its next exciting chapter when revered French designer Nicolas Ghesquière — now the creative director at Louis Vuitton — took to the helm and began to shape the iconic brand as we know it today. In 2001, world-class fashion conglomerate, Kering — which also owns other prestigious labels including Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta and Alexander McQueen — acquired the brand.
But perhaps its most significant evolution to date was the arrival of Demna Gvasalia as artistic director in 2015. Georgia-born Gvasalia, who studied at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts, made his way through the ranks of Louis Vuitton and Maison Margiela before becoming head designer at Vetements — a design collective that shot to fame for its cult-worthy pieces — a role which he maintains to this date alongside his position at Balenciaga. With a needle-moving approach to design, Gvasalia’s ability to set the fashion agenda with streetwear-infused future classics has made Balenciaga a household name.
The best Balenciaga collaborations
While Balenciaga’s mainline collections have featured covetable signature pieces — see below for the house’s most iconic pieces to date — the label’s white-hot collaborations have included some equally cult-worthy styles.
Balenciaga x Kanye West
The West-Gvasalia friendship goes back to before Demna’s Balenciaga days — the visionary duo worked together in the early Vetements years (circa 2014) and collaborated on Kanye’s Yeezy Season 1 collection in 2015. Subsequent to this, the pair partnered up to design a T-shirt in benefit of DMX’s family after the rapper’s passing earlier this year. Most recently, the French maison and American rapper joined forces to create a capsule collection to celebrate West’s latest highly anticipated album, Donda. The sought-after edit’s hero pieces are two layered T-shirts that make reference to Kanye’s childhood.
Balenciaga x Gucci
Technically speaking, the latest partnership between two of fashion’s biggest heavy-hitters isn’t a ‘collaboration’ as such — Gucci’s 100th anniversary Aria collection, which saw iconic Balenciaga signatures reimagined, was the first outpost of creative director Alessandro Michele’s ‘hacking lab’. With Demna’s permission, Michele used some of the label’s signature shapes and graphics — the hourglass suit jacket and unmistakable monogram logos among the most notable — and reenergized them through the Gucci lens. It’s a power pairing we’re hoping to see much more of in seasons to come.
FARFETCH x Balenciaga
To celebrate the newly landed fall/winter 2021 collection, we joined forces with Balenciaga to showcase its new-season offering through an innovative digital concept entitled ‘Future Fantasy’. The partnership saw artist Jon Emmony bring the collection to life via his sensory, gaming-inspired worlds in a series of videos and images, seen on this page.
The Afterworld: The Age Of Tomorrow collection
Balenciaga blurred the lines between the virtual world and reality this season, showcasing a pre-fall 2021 collection via a virtual game entitled ‘Afterworld: The Age Of Tomorrow’. It’s a concept the visionary remained true to through to the main fall/winter 2021 collection too, which was delivered via a lookbook that sees models superimposed against recognizable tourist attractions — a playful nod to a return to global travel. While its delivery was experimental, the pieces were perennial. Throughout menswear, oversized worn-effect denim, 90s-style tracksuits and worn-in suiting are among the key callouts while faux fur, highly sculptural outerwear and the label’s unmistakable monogrammed accessories are the highlights.
The icons: Balenciaga’s cult styles
Balenciaga has a few key styles to look out for throughout its collections that come reworked with progressive new revisions each and every season. In sneakers, there are three callouts that have become certified fixtures is the label’s cult offering — the Speed, Track and unmistakable Triple S designs. Debuted in late 2016, the Speed sneaker became an instant hit, loved for its minimalist sock-like upper and juxtaposing wide sole. Its streamlined second-skin design paved the way for a new sneaker trend the following year. The Balenciaga Track trainers are gorpcore at its finest — technical pieces with high fashion credibility, often worn in city settings. Its unmistakable retro shape is defined by a cage construction, integrated lace system and plenty of GORE-TEX®. And last but certainly not least, the Balenciaga Triple S. The distinctive shape takes influence from basketball, running and track silhouettes to create a zeitgeist-defining sneaker recognized the world over.
When it comes to the label's extensive bag offering, as well as the covetable City and Ville tote styles, there’s a new, recently released design to have on your radar — the sculptural Hourglass bag. Available in a range of size and color options, the striking crossbody design is characterized by its distinctive curved shape, structured top handles and B-detailed clasp.
Balenciaga: your size and fit guide
Famed for its cult streetwear classics, Balenciaga’s signature oversized approach to design translates into a broad size offering within its ready-to-wear offering across both genders. Generally speaking, the label’s pieces align to universal clothing standards on FARFETCH and tend to fit true to size across these conversions — in menswear, a large translates to a UK and US size 40, or a size 50 in French and Italian measurements. When selecting your size in the label’s iconic graphic T-shirts, hoodies and jackets, it’s recommended that you opt for your regular size; however, it’s worth taking into consideration that these pieces are designed for an oversized fit, so you may wish to opt for a size down depending on your preferred look. Trousers tend to follow suit, although where French sizing applies on selected styles, simply translate the sizing into universal clothing standards; a size 50 becomes a large and so on.
Women’s hoodies, T-shirts, dresses and trousers also tend to align to the universal clothing standard for womenswear and generally fit true to size, so it’s advisable to opt for your regular size across these categories. As a guide, size medium translates to a 10 in UK sizing, 42 in Italian, and size 38 in French measurements. Please note that this guide is based on FARFETCH’s sizing charts; measurements may vary slightly on Balenciaga’s own website. A key piece within fall/winter 2021 runway, shop the set-to-sell-out selection on FARFETCH now.