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By Dana Aufiero

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  Earth-rattling bass penetrates through a subterranean warzone, matching Mr. West’s aggressive stomps through the mud. Models trudge relentlessly down Santiago Sierra’s mudslide, armed and ready for battle in Balenciaga tactical gear, bringing along their favorite stuffed animals and potato chips for the journey. Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and North West sit front row in the muck, preparing to witness Demna battle the conventions of luxury fashion. 


 Invitations to Balenciaga's collection at Paris Fashion Week are found in Natalie Atune’s lost wallet. The collection's date and time are found on the back- after you sift through various identification cards and cat photos. Through elusive invitations, much like the cracked iPhone from the Winter ‘22 collection,  Demna invites attendees to recognize individuality and self-expression. 


In a world of ever-presenting pseudo-trends and social media influencers, every day becomes a challenge to establish an identity in an ultra-saturated fashion matrix. Demna writes, “Every day becomes a battlefield to define a [this] unique identity. And the more you try to be yourself the more you get punched in the face.” He invites an audience to the trenches on the western front, hoping to unearth the truth of luxury fashion with the scandalous authenticity that gives Balenciaga its popular reputation.  


 Kanye West, a frequent collaborator and long-time supporter of Demna, opens up the collection with a hefty flak jacket and black baseball cap that reads “2023.” West’s opening supported his later controversial appearance at fashion week for YZY SZN 9; He shares in a recent Vogue interview Demna’s influence on the collection: “Demna’s cut is at the top of what Paris has to offer. And Paris is at the top of what fashion has to offer. So let’s bring Paris to the people.”  


With the help of Ye’s influence and Demna’s creative direction, the people of Paris receive the opposite of the accustomed glamor that is known to fashion week’s polished runways. Models appear sleep-deprived, worn, and with bruises; moving swiftly through the trenches, the models’ exodus reminds the audience of the current refugee crisis that Demna raises awareness around. 


Bella Hadid treads in with multiple eyebrow piercings, a labret, and bleached eyebrows. The model wears mud-splattered black full-zip, pajama shorts and carries a tattered stuffed animal bag- splattered with more mud from her fast stride in the hulking Balenciaga 3XL sneakers. Hadid dresses down for Balenciaga’s occasion, her black hoodie and untidy appearance hide the supermodel’s enchanting demeanor and effervescence. 


Slouching and exasperated, the models continue to plod through a dystopian environment with bags that double as gloves and springing foam noodle scarves. Nude-colored corsets and mesh tops clenched tightly on male models’ athletic physiques, paired with 18-inch belts on low-sitting distressed denim that reveals bold-labeled boxers. 


Fake babies fill the Balenciaga harnesses that are attached over billow puffer jackets, with mesh neon tote bags that are filled with traveling necessities. The infamous trash bag even reappears, following a Lays pouch that keeps chips fresh with an enclosed zipper at the seal.


Dainty sequin gowns get dragged through the mud, twinkling delicately amongst obtrusive leather patterns and the dark warehouse. Bag straps pound against the final gown as the model stomps down the runway in triplatform boots. Le Cagole bag handle composes the neckline of the dress, with handbags overlapping one another to construct an edgier mermaid gown with leather armor. A single accessory forms the entirety of the punk-inspired dress, reminding the world that Demna’s luxury fashion house will continue to battle confining  industry standards. 

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