THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DEMNA
HOW DEMNA MADE CAPITALISM CHIC
By Julia Demer
According to Balenciaga’s creative director Demna Gvasalia, “money is the ultimate fetiche.” With its power for creation, destruction, and control, money breeds both our highest aspirations and deepest fears. At Balenciaga’s recent show inside the New York Stock Exchange, impending corruption has never felt so alluring.
If money is influence, then Demna, who was listed on Time’s 2022 100 Most Influential People, is its personification. Garnering show attendees such as Kanye West, Megan Thee Stallion, and Anna Wintour, the man’s power lies within his knack for disruption.
The Vetements co-founder projected Balenciaga’s logo in Madison Square Park, Union Square and other iconic Manhattan landmarks leading up to the show. Invitations arrived in unassuming, crumpled-up paper bags. Inside those bags were stacks of faux Balenciaga- branded $100 bills. No stranger to unconventional greetings, Demna previously sent show invitations in the form of nonoperational iPhone 6s, which, much like fake money, is useless.
“Wall Street” brings to mind many things, but relaxation certainly isn’t one of them. Commencing to the sound of the NYSE’s opening bell, techno music blared as guests watched from tall backless stools. Every detail was intentionally unsettling: screens of numbers and icons flashed while models wearing impish latex unitards navigated through the trading floor. A metaphor for capitalism, the unforgiving undergarments paired with layers upon layers of voluminous fabric created a feeling of restriction.
Looks from the first part of the show came from Balenciaga’s new line, Garde-Robe. Although Balenciaga’s athletic wear has seen great commercial success, Garde-Robe is Demna’s segue into tailoring. Revealing not a centimeter of skin, the opening look was a double-breasted blazer dress with padded shoulders, an oversized bow, sunglasses, and obviously, a latex unitard. Inspired by the ‘80s, the mostly black collection features gargantuan suits, floor-sweeping trenches and boxy briefcases. Again getting at the relentless nature of capitalism, the workwear imagery says that we are slaves to our work.
While Garde-Robe critiques capitalism, part two of the collection, and already available to purchase in collaboration with Adidas, embrace it. Breaking from Garde-Robe’s subdued color palette, the latter looks like incorporated pops of color. One notable ensemble included baggy jeans, an oversized logo hoodie, branded backpack, and neon green pigtails peeking out from under a black latex suit. Its dramatic proportions made what would have otherwise been a standard “going to school” outfit, undeniably Balenciaga.
Much like our current economy, everything in Balenciaga’s Spring 2023 collection appears inflated. Full of volume, padding, and with the models’ faces obscured— mystery. Clown shoes of dramatic proportions offset massive duffels and track suits that seemed about three sizes too big. Demna’s ability to distort the human frame and upend familiar silhouettes is perhaps his most defining characteristic as a designer. You need not know it’s Balenciaga per se to recognize that whatever exactly you’re looking at, is special. It is meant to take up space. It is meant to be seen.
Held in a setting almost synonymous with wealth and ambition, Balenciaga’s Spring 2023 show was as intellectually compelling as it was visually. Demna once defined fashion as “a mirror, a reflection of what’s going on around us,” and if this is correct, then Balenciaga’s Spring 2023 collection was fashion through and through.