Balenciaga debuted a 58-look winter 2021 collection this weekend. Unveiled in lookbook form photographed by Patrick Welde against blank backgrounds, the brand imagines each model, posing in front of an iconic tourist attraction that is added in post-production. In these images, the collection goes around the world, anticipating a return to the possibility of global travel.
A complete wardrobe, winter ‘21 rethinks traditions of casual and formalwear, inverting intentions to create new categories. The largely unisex offering relies on relaxed fits and easy-to-wear pieces made from 90.6 percent of plain and printed fabrics that are certified sustainable.
Tailoring is intentionally creased and large fitting, made in satin, viscose gabardine, linen, crushed nylon, and cotton. A stencil stamp that reads “Balenciaga Apparel Rentals” accentuates a suit or tuxedo’s timelessness, insinuating it be used forever, by multiple wearers, for any occasion. The collar of a cashmere coat is a tasseled scarf, which can circle the neck or drape over the head.
Nineties tracksuits have inspired different types of outerwear, from padded coats and parkas to fleece jackets, creating a new trompe l’oeil effect. This is seen as well in retro feminine floral-printed puff-sleeved dresses that are transformed into trench, nylon, and leather coats, keeping the visual of a dress but obtaining a completely new function. A quilted black wedding dress-inspired coat is decorated with rose patterns, lace, and ribbons that tie around puffy sleeves and a tall, stiff collar.
Tracksuits are seen in traditional nylon but also reimagined in fleece, fused with knit pullovers, and transformed into hoodies and long cinched coats. Hoodies, hooded T-shirts, and caps are emblazoned with the Incredible Hulk, college sweatshirt-style prints, as well as artworks celebrating Gay Pride.
The Balenciaga Toe heels introduced one year ago are recreated in soft leather. Essex boots, buckled at the ankle, appear deceivingly precarious due to a protruding heel and metal stiletto. The Sabot Heel takes its shape from the traditional clog of the same name. Bulldozer boots have a chunky, platformed outsole. The Runner sneaker is a new addition to the Balenciaga sneaker collection. It stands out with a DIY, cut-up aesthetic, a web of athletic components in the shape of a springy running shoe.
Among the new bags introduced in the pre-collection are Le Cagole, Gossip, Tote 2.0, Bistro Basket, and Maxi Clutch. The Cagole is round-edged where the Neo Classic is sharp, taking identifying elements from the 20-year-old iconic Balenciaga bag and relaxing them, adding extra studs and a heart-shaped hanging mirror. The Neo Classic and Hourglass are made softer and slouchier, too, suggesting both purse and carryall. The Gossip Bag is a pocketbook with extra pockets, featuring a horizontally stretched double-B logo. The Tote 2.0 holds a square shape because of a stiff frame that connects on top with a straightened handle. The Bistro Basket is a woven tote inspired by the everlasting woven objects in typical French bistros.
In tandem with the lookbook, the brand also launched a “Feel Good Video” made in collaboration with Kamilya Kuspanova and Anton Bialas, artists that often layer found and original footage, and with Heejoon Kwak, a designer interested in the physical and mental effects of sound. The video features no products or advertising, created solely to evoke a positive emotion. Using visuals and sounds that have been scientifically proven to instill joy in most people, the montage pieces together clips and effects in a way that aims to cleanse the everyday digital palette and make almost anyone feel good.