Much has been written about the return of FOMO as restaurants—and borders—reopen, and the luckiest among us begin revisiting our once thriving (and debatably overscheduled) social and professional commitments in a world tiptoeing back to some form of pre-pandemic normalcy. This week’s haute couture shows, many of which are being held in person, have presented the biggest post-lockdown FOMO opportunity for the fashion faithful, and there was perhaps no bigger moment to miss out on than Demna Gvasalia’s couture debut for Balenciaga.
Welcome to Artist Spotlight #57 series on my blog.
Those lucky enough to be present have reported audible gasps as Gvasalia evolved his street sensibility with what Vogue’s Sarah Mower called “confidence, grandeur, and ease” and the brand returned to the couture calendar for the first time since Cristóbal Balenciaga shuttered his house 53 years ago. In a particularly impressive feat, the collection—with its mix of structured tailoring, voluminous gowns, and extravagant embroideries—nodded to the past while still respecting the modern aesthetic that has earned Gvasalia legions of millennial fans. The hair and makeup did a similar dance, riffing on classic techniques with idiosyncratic treatments.
“It felt like a gesture that was just always there,” makeup artist Inge Grognard says of the purposeful, gender-neutral slashes of black eyeliner that she applied to a selection of models, both men and women. The reference to more recognizable couture makeup—the thin, black cat-eye flicks that were once a fixture of the Paris salons of the ’50s and ’60s—wasn’t lost on Grognard, who made handy work of avoiding anything too retro. “This had to be a modern version,” she says of the graphic statement, a layering effort of Kiko Milano’s gel eyeliner to anchor a coating of Maybelline’s liquid eyeliner pen for “a shiny thing” on top. Grognard estimates she tried 30 different eyeliners before arriving at this specific combination, which appeared against almost starkly bare skin—no blush, no mascara, no painted brows.
Hairstylist Holli Smith’s sleek, individualized hair looks furthered Gvasalia’s rebuke of more standardized forms of beauty. “Wet was the key word for a lot of the looks,” says Smith, who used the utilitarian French pomade Pento to get a noticeable sheen without the stiffness of gel. Smith’s razor-sharp parts with angled ends, occasional bursts of texture, and even a few refined chignons offered a similar update to more familiar couture shapes while providing the perfect base for a series of instantly iconic Philip Treacy hats.
Both Grognard and Smith confirmed the collective suspicion gripping those of us who watched as these runway photos came in online this morning: that the show was really something to behold in person. “There was a lot of emotion,” Grognard reveals of the mood today at 10 Avenue Georges V, which had been retrofitted to resemble Cristobal’s original atelier and where call time was a bright and early 5:00 a.m. Adds Smith, “It’s very special to be a part of.”