Was Balenciaga's Pared-Back Paris Fashion Week Show Enough to Salvage Its Reputation?
Moving away from viral moments and celebrity ambassadors, Demna went back to basics for FW23.
We knew that this showcase would be a fair departure from the brand’s previous, outlandish offerings. Partly because Demna said so himself, and partly because there was seemingly no other way to salvage Balenciaga’s reputation. Refreshingly, this season promised a departure from the concept of “fashion as entertainment,” which felt like an impossible task considering the brand’s viral nature and affinity for celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West.
However, the designer stayed true to his word. Taking place in a pared-back room inside the Carrousel du Louvre shopping center in Paris, the showcase featured no major celebrities or standout viral moments and instead, did shift the focus towards the clothing and the craftsmanship — something that seemingly hasn’t been the biggest priority of late.
Speaking to Hypebeast, Demna explained that “it was after a couple of our last shows that were a lot about the setting, the show, the effect and concept of the set. But unfortunately — starting from the snow show — I felt a little bit frustrated because I felt like I had betrayed my true value of actually making clothes. People wouldn’t see the clothes anymore, they would see the set design and talk about that, and that was really frustrating for me. The idea was to move away from that and go to square one, which is making clothes and making that the focus. Over the last couple of months, it’s felt like this is exactly what I was meant to do.”
He continued, “I began making [this collection] before [the controversy], in October. Obviously, the situation impacted my way of working — this is how the tailoring, deconstructed and reconstructed, was born by me directly working on it. The idea to make this about clothes, 100%, was there before. The situation just confirmed to me that this was the right direction.”
That said, alongside the archival floral dresses and immaculate tailoring, a few buzzy looks slipped through the net. Shrunken leather jackets, impossibly fitting knits and awkward arm holes made their way onto the runway, potentially as a reminder that while fashion “can no longer be seen as entertainment,” it’s still possible to go against the grain sometimes.
All in all, the subtle showcase felt like the right move for Balenciaga — a brand that’s slowly, but surely clawing back its reputation as a high-quality couturier, and seemingly leaning away from provocative subject matter for the sake of viral moments.
Take a look at the collection above. In case you missed it, here’s what went down at Vivienne Westwood FW23.