Balenciaga READY-TO-WEAR FALL/WINTER 2023 Collection
In contrast to the performative, the ‘experiential,’ and meme-generating multi-platform marketing harnessed by companies, a prominent theme of the most recent exhibitions has been a return to design’s essentials. The Balenciaga presentation for fall 2023 was where the friction between the two extremes was most palpable. Since the worldwide crisis that was exploded by two Balenciaga online advertising campaigns uploaded last November, this was Demna, formerly known as Demna Gvasalia, one of the master-architects of meta-ironics,’s first Paris show.
When Vogue released his explanation and apology in early February, he also included details on the brand’s plans for internal reform and its offer of reparation through a three-year partnership with the National Children’s Alliance. Because I’m ready to move on, I knew I had to put up a show. In a private meeting at Balenciaga’s offices in the days leading up to the exhibition, he had declared, “I need to liberate myself—through my work, and what I do, and put it out there.” Since these past three months have been so difficult, I find myself wondering how on earth I found the inner fortitude to persevere.
Whether by choice or need, he decided to abandon his mega-set approach in favour of showcasing his own fight for reputational integrity as a designer in a theatre with a white canvas backdrop. Even when it was jam-packed with amazing garments, it cast a shadow on the collections. To me, it felt like the most crucial aspect of my job was being buried by 15 minutes of buzzy concepts when I was tasked with designing such elaborate sets. I was thinking, “Okay, I need to change that anyway,” and he confirmed my thinking. And this whole ordeal has proven to me that it is no longer relevant to focus on it. That’s a lot of fun for me to do. However, I realised that I wanted to highlight the fact that I enjoy sewing garments more than anything else in the world. Finally, I have a finished product that is representative of who I am as a designer. For me, this is the essence of the message I hope to convey: “This is me.”
His identity and current location: A lengthy, gloomy sequence of 17 black oversized tailoring pieces set the tone for the show, and it was hard not to see the vision of a world turned upside down in their creation. Black is an essential Balenciaga non-shade; it reflects the current climate of fashion, and it served as a gentle reminder that Demna was the forefather of the supersizing trend that has swept the industry in the past decade. There is nothing novel about that. The unique aspect of these garments was that they were made out of inverted pants. Many of the coats and jackets included pockets and hooks for pants. And underneath them, two pairs of pants created the erie illusion that the persons were walking on all fours when viewed from the side.
Demna, according to a note put on each seat, was thinking back to when, as a little boy in Georgia, he was given money to go get a pair of pants made by a nearby tailor.
The subterranean location he chose today was a far cry from the seedy clubs where he first surprised audiences with his Vetements gigs in the mid-2000s. There were no A-listers in the front row, but there were still 700 industry professionals there. This is the guy who has conditioned the world to put subtexts into everything he does, so perhaps the fact that this space in the Carrousel du Louvre was constructed specifically for fashion displays in the 1990s was a message. Balenciaga, located in the epicentre of the Paris fashion industry, must now steer its massive enterprise through the eye of the storm.
How can we put an end to the unbridled, corrosive rage of online commentary? Reducing a collection to its most elemental parts and focusing on that is usually only the beginning of a long process. Demna’s choice includes a renewed interest in Cristóbal Balenciaga’s history.
His earlier remark to Vogue, “Evolving it is the number one reason why I am here,” rings true. Stripped down to its essentials, the collection may be seen as a combination of Demna-isms, including cyber-avatar menswear and his signature flower-printed knife-pleated dresses, before shifting into a clear homage to the founder’s vintage evening gowns. Featuring a new characteristic rounded-bump of a shoulderline, these dresses were long and thin yet still covered up.
Balenciaga is undergoing a transformation that goes well beyond a simple update to its aesthetic. It was announced solely by its absence, with all logos removed from apparel and accessories. Demna has introduced the cult of Balenciaga to mainstream street culture all around the world, and a big part of that is the allure of extremely visible branding.
“It’s a big thing,” he finally conceded. But I believe my work is entering a new phase in which the logo on it is no longer necessary to establish its legitimacy. The truth is that we need to do this, and I want to persuade you that doing so is the best course of action right now. And, you know, when you do that, you’re not just doing it once. You need to keep going if you want to make a difference.