In a recent interview, artistic director Demna, announced that the Balenciaga Fall/Winter 2023 collection would be “more about showing the collection than creating a moment.”
“I want to make sure that’s what people are looking at,” he said. “I think my value as a creative is designing the product and not being a showman.”
Of course, given the show’s significance, it would always be a moment of sorts. This was, after all, the first show since two bombs — the Spring ‘23 and Holiday campaign — wrecked the house of Balenciaga.
November’s Holiday campaign, in which critics condemned the house for depicting children with items that were interpreted as BDSM in nature, was the beginning of a whirlwind downfall. While the brand assured that the harnesses, studs and outfits — that were dressed on stuffed toys — were inspired by punk, not bondage, the controversy was just beginning. Just days later, internet sleuths worked out that three props from the Spring ’23 campaign were all bizarrely connected to legal cases involving child abuse.
Balenciaga withdrew both campaigns and launched a $25 million lawsuit against those contracted to execute the set design and shoot production. It later solidified a three-year partnership with the National Children’s Alliance. “We all learned from this and have taken actions and changed our ways of working so this never happens again,” said Balenciaga’s president and CEO, Cédric Charbit.
While the magnitude of the scandal can’t be overstated — and confusion rightfully still exists around how it all happened — Demna is no stranger to virality. Just a year ago, models struggled to wade through snow and wind in a glass rotunda for the Fall Winter ’22 show. Headlines from all around the world paint a picture of a brand that cares more about feeding the social media beast than creating something substantial. The work was there, and it had a lot to say on its own. It was just overshadowed.
But for this year, there was a distinct sense of humility from the reveal of the stark venue to the last garment that made its way down the runway. No trash bags or Lays chips. No moments seized to take hold of the news cycle for days. “I will have a more mature and serious approach to everything I release as an idea or an image,” he said. “I have decided to go back to my roots in fashion, as well as to the roots of Balenciaga, which is making quality clothes — not making image or buzz.”
Given the last few months, it seems Demna may have seen the algorithm for the slippery slope that it is. And with this collection, he promises a new chapter, a new beginning impeccably presented. From the moment the first few looks — all-black tailored pieces with an upside-down twist — a reset was clear. Clothes were stunning — meticulously crafted, just as Demna promised — but earnest. Even with sky-high shoulders, fishnet stocking boots, angelic draping and snug bodysuits, nothing clamored for attention. Instead, beautifully made clothes anyone would want to wear were put front and center.
Of course, while Demna has always been able to make his trademark known, there was a noticeable deviation. A brand that could be credited for bringing back logomania now withholds all logos — a move Denma told an outlet was intentional. “I think we’re going to enter the stage in my work where it doesn’t need to be justified by the brand on it,” he said, assuring us that this is only the beginning of a persistent effort to get back to the roots of his passion for tailoring and Cristóbal Balenciaga’s work.