n the 1950s and ’60s, couturier Cristobal Balenciaga dressed Babe Paley and Gloria Guinness. Today, Balenciaga returns with its first couture show in 53 years with Ella Emhoff, the 21-year-old daughter of Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and budding Bushwick fashion designer and model, walking down the runway. It marks Ella’s second fashion show appearance—she walked in Proenza Schouler’s February show—but also serves as an apt metaphor for couture’s broader changes.
“I was not looking to find the Mona von Bismarcks of today,” Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga told WWD of his new fall couture collection. Emhoff, with her signature halo of unruly curls, wire-rim glasses, tattoos, and penchant for crochet, is no 5th Avenue swan.
And for every sculptural evening gown made for candlelit rooms and celebrity-studded galas Gvasalia presented, there were more approachable pieces: coats, sweaters, button-downs, even denim.
On the surface it may seem radical to propose wearing a couture to the grocery store, but is it really that different than the bespoke day dresses and suits of yesteryear? In other words, is Ella Emhoff the Gen Z answer to Babe Paley?