The style world went into overdrive earlier this week when rumors suggested two of the biggest fashion houses, Balenciaga and Gucci, had collaborated together. With neither label confirming — or denying — the news, though, consumers were forced to wait until the opening of Gucci’s show, Aria, to see if the rumors held any truth. As Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele promised, the presentation was “one of the house’s greatest milestone moments,” blending Gucci’s busy logos with Balenciaga’s striking silhouettes.

If you’re unfamiliar with high fashion, think of this collaboration as monumental as Nike and Adidas teaming up to create the ultimate collection. But unlike the two sportswear brands, Gucci and Balenciaga are sister brands under the Kering group, making a partnership more likely.

That said, a team-up of this sort has never been done before. Gucci and Balenciaga’s collaboration marks the first time two major fashion houses have acknowledged each other, let alone collaborated. Of course, labels like Dries Van Noten and Christian Lacroix have created pieces together, and Raf Simons joined Prada as co-creative director last year — but neither carry the same impact as Gucci and Balenciaga mixing designs and co-branding.

Appealing to modernity and heritage — But as two of the biggest names in fashion, did Gucci and Balenciaga’s collaborative collection actually pay off, and give us something fresh? At a first glance, it’s easy to point out Gucci’s signature sparkling treatments and Balenciaga’s angular silhouettes. With co-branding stamped on most of the capsule, though, the pieces might be more of a hypebeast’s dream than one of high fashion.

Gucci X Balenciaga

While half of the show took on a modern, runway look, the second half added a whimsical touch to the collection. Square-shouldered blazers and crystal-encrusted hourglass suits shine in the first setting, while sequined trench coats and crisp white sets contribute to the latter fairytale ambiance. Gucci also enlisted the help of celebrities like Miley Cyrus to debut the collaborative capsule on social media, where the singer can be seen frolicking among mushrooms in a sparkly green branded jacket and large branded sunglasses.

There’s no denying the collection is stunning — but it’s certainly not what fans expected. With 2021 marking Gucci’s 100 year anniversary, some speculated Gucci-lover Harry Styles would make an appearance on the runway, while others expected the capsule would arrive in NFT format. A Balenciaga collaboration is huge news for both luxury labels, but the two have left consumers wondering: How exactly does the co-branded collection play into Gucci’s heritage, and how does the capsule bring anything new to the table, despite its existence?

Gucci X Balenciaga

A single show, with many layers — To further explain the Aria collection, Michele presented a short film celebrating Gucci’s heritage and displaying the pieces. In the clip, models explore the Savoy Club — a tribute to the Savoy London Hotel where founder Guccio Gucci worked as a lift boy in his youth. Here’s where co-branded suiting and boxy silhouettes are shown off to the tune of Lil Pump’s “Gucci Gang” and Bad Bhabie’s “Gucci Flip Flops.”

Michele then defines the whimsical part of the show as a “hacking lab.” More delicate lacy and feathered designs come into play here, alongside white horses, bunnies, peacocks, and forestry. Chunky jewelry shines through filtered sunlight while dangling nose rings and bedazzled footwear add to the cohesive blinged-out look. The show concludes with models gently taking flight into the sky.

The creative designer has taken care to breathe character into his pieces through this short film, which certainly helps break down the collection and its inspiration. Through angular silhouettes and an overload of shine, we get a sense of Gucci’s signature designs and Balenciaga’s influence, appealing to both modernity and heritage. It seems the two powerful brands have learned that by working together, they can make more of an impact — and all the power to them for doing so.