Last fall, Balenciaga launched its wildest controversy yet. So unhinged it sent the internet –rightfully so– into a frenzy of furriery so bad the brand’s biggest fan Kim Kardashian made a statement, and Balenciaga went into quiet hiding, removing all of their photos on Instagram and revoking its tagged feature. The crime in question was two campaigns, one with young children wearing teddy bear bags styled in S&M-style accessories and another featuring the Balenciaga x Adidas Hourglass bag laid across court documents relating to the 2008 United States v. Williams Supreme Court decision regarding child pornography laws.
After attempting to sue the production company behind the disturbing pieces of work and then dropping the charges, Balenciaga made it back to the runway during Paris Fashion Week.
What is life after a major scandal? Creative director Demna, formally known as Demna Gvasalia, is no stranger to bouncing back. Lest we forget it was under his leadership that Balenciaga remade IKEA’s 99-cent shopping bag as a luxury item with a hefty price tag and sent war-torn-looking models down the runway toting trash bags of luxury leather. No, this isn’t Balenciaga’s first rodeo but last year marked something unforgivable even for them.
For the Fall/Winter 2023, Denma is back to the basics, to the very idea and reason of the brand: the clothes.
The show was intimate, well as intimate as a Balenciaga show can be. Despite its years of aligning itself with celebrity and celebrity culture, there wasn’t a single A-lister in the front row although 700 guests attended. Industry professionals filled the bright white Carrousel de Lourve space, seated in traditional show form. For a brand that has taken part in elaborate presentation sets more often than not, this was a key symbol of the change within house. The show opened with a series of black tailored looks outfitted with reverse-tailored trousers. Coats long and short feature hems with pockets and pant loops. All of which, of course, are oversize. It is Demna’s Balenciaga after all.
Bringing the focus back to the clothes isn’t the end of Demna’s design ethos but rather an evolution. Elsewhere in the collection outsized denim is paired with equally outsized denim, and he reinvents his floral knife pleat dresses into blouses with pussy bows and elongated sleeves. Styled in monochromatic maximalism with skirts designed in the same print and pleat.
Elsewhere in the collection, we see Demna’s familiar cyber-avatar meets normcore. Male models dressed in futuristic shades donned sweatsuits and hoodies featuring bulbous shoulders and bodies. Some look as if they were hiding coffee machines underneath their garments. Motocross-like boots with pointed toes accompanied most of these looks. A style we’re sure Kanye has called in for already.
One Demna favorite was shockingly missing from this collection, the use of text or even logos. The man loves an ironic slogan tee more than your favorite hypebeast and when logomania had stopped floating down on social media feeds in full force, Balenciaga still held on with its use of the house name like a classic stripe or animal print. No, Fall/Winter 2023 is about refocusing on the legacy of the house. So the eveningwear, though beautiful, isn’t super-sized in typical Demna fashion but sleek and outfitted with high necklines and the projecting shoulders seen throughout the collection.
The recentering on fashion is only one part of the Balenciaga rebrand. For the next three years, the brand will partner with the National Children’s Alliance and plans an internal reform. There’s only one way out of this scandal and it’s through. At least he’ll be stylishly dressed.