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Balenciaga transforms former aviation fuel tanks into couture salon in Shanghai

Fashion brand Balenciaga has blanketed the interior of the Tank Shanghai museum in cream-coloured curtains for its first couture salon and showroom in China.

Balenciaga's 50th Couture – China Special features 30 looks from Demna Gvasalia's first couture collection for Balenciaga, which was also the fashion brand's first since founder Cristobal Balenciaga departed the house in 1967.

The exterior of Balenciaga 50th Couture China Special was draped in curtains
Balenciaga has converted Tank Shanghai into a temporary couture salon

The couture collection and salon is located at Tank Shanghai, a museum formed of a group of five former aviation fuel containers at the site of the former Longhua airport, that was converted by Open Architecture.

Balenciaga's internal architecture team, which was responsible for the design, transformed the museum into a fabric-wrapped couture salon, showroom, grand hall and banquet room.

Interior image of seating area at the Balenciaga 50th Couture China Special
The spaces are furnished with replicas of original pieces from Cristobal Balenciaga's 1930s salon and atelier

From the museum's paved courtyard, views to the interior are shrouded by floor-to-ceiling, cream-hued curtains that wrap around the exterior of its sunken level.

Upon entering the space, guests are met with an interior that echoes Balenciaga's recently restored 10 Avenue George V couture salon and atelier, which was designed as a complete replica of Cristobal's own but as though left to the ravages of time.

Interior image of showroom at Balenciaga 50th Couture China Special
The aviation fuel tanks were draped in beige curtains

At Tank Shanghai, lightbox ceilings stretch across the interior between its curtain-lined walls.

Replicas of salon furniture used in Balenciaga's first couture shows in 1930s Paris fill the space, while mirrors are placed in openings between the curtains to infinitely reflect the rooms they occupy.

Image of the couture garments at the Balenciaga 50th Couture Collection China Special
Thirty looks, including a China-exclusive, were presented on mannequins

"As China isn’t able to travel to Europe, either, I felt it was our duty to bring the Balenciaga 50th Couture Collection there," said Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia.

"I'm proud to share with China this very important moment celebrating the culture, craftsmanship, and heritage of Balenciaga in an exhibition featuring my first Couture collection.”

The museum's white cube-style aviation tank was transformed into a couture showroom that was similarly blanketed in metres of cream-hued drapes.

Seven, tiered rows of pale, off-white curtains were organised within the show space, becoming shorter in length towards the centre of the tank.

Image of the showroom at the Balenciaga 50th Couture Collection China Special
Curtains were organised in circular rows that reduce in length

Nineteen mannequins showcasing the collection are equally spaced around the showroom, and organised in a circular formation that follows the footprint of the aviation tank and draping curtains.

"The set design is highly experiential and immersive, very monumental and spectacular, yet also highly intimate," said Balenciaga CEO Cédric Charbit in an interview with WWD.

Image of five couture looks at the Balenciaga 50th Couture Collection China Special
The temporary salon hosts five-days of viewings, fittings, performances and tours

An additional 11 looks from the collection are displayed in a bespoke couture dressing suite that was built along the bank of the adjacent Huangpu River.

The dressing suite was designed to offer Balenciaga clients a traditional couture experience. The suite includes specialist couturier features, such as a salon to view one-of-one pieces, a secluded podium for taking measurements for custom garments and private changing areas.

Interior view of the couture salon at Balenciaga 50th Couture Collection China Special
Rooms were designed to offer clients a traditional couture ceremony

Balenciaga recently reopened its flagship store in London that was renovated with a "raw architecture" aesthetic, featuring distressed surfaces and exposed construction elements.

During Paris Fashion Week in October, the brand made headlines when it presented its Spring Summer 2022 collection which included a short The Simpsons film.

More images

Exterior of Balenciaga 50th Couture China Special at Tank Shanghai