Two ready-two-wear collections after their severe controversy, Balenciaga's creative director Demna looked inwards to find what fashion means to him. Coming off a year in which he stated that he "felt very alone", Demna looked back at his last ready-to-wear show as a "show of fear", instilled by a controversy that hasn't fully shaken off, even today. What he decided to do next for the Spring 2024 Ready-to-Wear collection was to celebrate everything that's dear to him about fashion.
An interesting anecdote behind the collection comes from Demna's recent stay with husband Loïk Gomez—better known as the musician BFRND—in South France. While wearing their usual attire of dark layers, the pair received cold treatments from fellow tourists around them. Demna then decided to buy "vacation-appropriate" clothes for them both and predictably, people's treatments for the pair improved a whole lot. While the experience was pleasant, Demna was disgusted because it felt like role-playing to him. Thus, he vowed to never blend in or repress who he is again.
Coming from a war refugee background, Demna's contempt for what is considered as "traditional luxury" is understandable. As he stated, his approach to fashion is bottom-up instead of top-down, as he used to need to look for beauty in everything. "How is it possible in 2023 that fashion needs to be defined from top-down, like from colonial times, when the elite defined what everybody else wants to resemble?" he expressed.
To channel what he loves about fashion, Demna surrounds himself with those that are close to him. The show features Demna's own mother as a model, alongside academic staff who taught him at Antwerp Academy, fashion critic Cathy Horyn, fashion blogger Diane Pernet, and fashion historian Miren Arzalluz-among others. The deeply personal collection features typical Demna silhouettes and subversions. Among the voluminous layered looks, models carried wallets in the form of faux passports with boarding cards to Demna's home, Geneva. Others carried clutches in the form of a shoe or shopping totes.
Demna's personal touch even permeates into how the collection is made, as Demna himself is responsible for sewing a lot of the pieces presented-on the same type of sewing machine he once used as a student, no less. Soundtracking the show is Isabelle Huppert's voice reading out instructions on how to tailor a jacket, increasing in speed and intensity as the show went on. "I wanted to show, you know, fashion is a complex job, and I wanted to show that appreciation and also to value it," stated the designer on the soundtrack choice.
While Balenciaga's runways often provide a commentary or reaction to the state of the world, this season's personal affair seemed honest and heartfelt. As Gomez wore the final wedding dress down the runway, the sheer enclosed feeling of the look evoked the intimacy Demna sought to express.(alm/tim)