Balenciaga fashion show, attended by stars like Kanye, Offset and Megan Thee Stallion, is a sign of things to come at the luxury label
- Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia debuted the Paris-based label’s latest collection at an event at the New York Stock Exchange attended by the likes of Kanye West
- The show was a tale of two parts, with the first half featuring chic work-appropriate looks for grown-ups and the second a streetwear collaboration with Adidas
Balenciaga has been on a roll lately.
Helmed by Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia, the Paris-based brand – owned by the Kering Group, the company behind labels including Gucci, Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta – has managed to weather the coronavirus pandemic and come through it relatively unscathed.
Before that, Gvasalia debuted his first haute couture collection in July 2021, showing that he can do more than hoodies and “dad sneakers” and that the Parisian refinement that the brand was known for in the 20th century was not completely lost.
Earlier this year, the two starred in one of the label’s campaigns and began showing up to events in Balenciaga. Bieber’s baggy suit at this year’s Grammy Awards show spawned countless memes, while the Balenciaga get-ups that Kardashian has been sporting – from the hot pink looks she wore to host US show Saturday Night Live to her all-black off-duty outfits in Los Angeles – have been fodder for celebrity websites.
Gvasalia knows a thing or two about creating buzz, which is why the designer chose a very unexpected spot for the unveiling of the brand’s summer 2023 collection: the New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street, the ultimate symbol of Western capitalism if ever there was one.
“It’s the first time we [did a] show in America and New York for me was an important place to come,” says Gvasalia in a post-show interview. “We thought about iconic places in New York, and the stock exchange has been my dad’s dream as he always wanted me to be a successful banker. I couldn’t miss this opportunity to be in such an iconic place.”
Held on the trading floor of the building, the show was a celebrity magnet, attracting a star-studded front row.
Kardashian didn’t make an appearance – she was partying in Portofino, Italy, for the nuptials of her sister Kourtney to Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker – but the only celebrity able to outshine her these days did show up: her ex-husband, Kanye West.
He was joined by other VIPs including musicians Pharrell Williams, Offset and Megan Thee Stallion, and actresses Chloe Sevigny and Alexa Demie.
The show felt like two collections in one: the first section, in which models walked to the sound of the iconic New York, New York, featured chic work-appropriate looks for grown-ups with jobs, while the second part – against a pounding techno beat – was a collaboration with sportswear giant Adidas. All the models wore latex masks, a trick that made it easier for Gvasalia to style the collection.
“At Balenciaga, we cater to different types of clients. We already have the streetwear, sport-inspired client but Garde-Robe [the first part] is something new and is actually where I come from,” says Gvasalia, referring to a new range featuring upscale, classic and more expensive garments made in France.
“People know me for hoodies but the first piece I did was a tailored jacket, so for me there was a missing link at Balenciaga.”
The brand is known, especially in Asia, for approachable entry-level offerings such as the Triple S sneakers. It now aims to target a more sophisticated and wealthy clientele – shoppers who buy less but better and tend to go for the logo-free, big-ticket items that truly define a luxury brand.
The already-available Adidas collab, however, is what’s going to sell out and make headlines, even though the sportswear brand recently collaborated with high-end labels such as Prada and Gucci.
“I’ve always wanted to use the three stripes and the logo, and as a seven-year-old kid I had an Adidas tracksuit – that was my biggest fashion moment as a child, so it’s linked to my personal story,” says Gvasalia.
Gvasalia’s skill at combining commercial viability with forward-thinking and directional shows has been his key to success at Balenciaga.
“The biggest challenge is to make products that are desirable, that’s what we’re trying to do every day,” he says. “Sometimes [they’re] desirable, sometimes [they’re] less desirable but the success of a product is desirability and it’s the most difficult thing for a designer.”
“It’s amazing how far ahead Demna is and that we’re here in Wall Street, in a bear market [when a stock or market index drops by at least 20 per cent] and on the verge of a recession, and you have all these faceless men and women off to do important things in the face of our precarious times. It was fascinating,” she says after the show.
With Balenciaga and the luxury industry in general relatively unaffected by the turbulent market – at least for now – Gvasalia strikes a positive note. “If you watch the news, you can’t have confidence in anything,” he says. “I’m an optimist … there are ups and downs but there will be hard moments and good ones.”