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The Most Demna Balenciaga Collection Winter ’24

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He told the journalists after the show: “Fashion has to be radical; it has to be on the edge. Otherwise, it’s a scam.”
Demna Gvasalia AI art created by Agnes Ge

At the headquarters of Balenciaga, a giant portrait of Cristóbal Balenciaga hangs against Demna Gvasalia’s working desk. Known for his radical styles that redefine the look of the house, Demna sews his own vision of fashion’s essence into the luxury house every season. “When a product doesn’t resemble me, a customer doesn’t believe it and doesn’t want to have it.” Demna sometimes calls himself a “fashion activist”. While still paying tribute to the elegant cutting of Cristóbal, this activist goes on fire when it comes to Ready-to-Wear fashion.

Bad Taste and Good Taste

For the Winter 2024 collection, Demna embarked on his signature Dadaism conception and researched in two directions: The idea of bad taste and the idea of good taste.

 

The founder of the house, Cristóbal Balenciaga’s archive, unsurprisingly, is the source of ‘good taste’ that Demna dives into. The opening gowns are direct references to Cristobal’s early ’60s archive. The gown is equipped with a built-in popped hip shape created with shoulder pads from a tailoring jacket, inspired by the “hip-aulette” construction of the founder Cristobal, who is known for his genius on tailoring.

 

Does Demna consider his style “bad taste”? Not really. But for sure, he knows the controversies that his style can provoke. “This is something that makes me really angry often, that the fashion audience always wants fashion to tell this kind of fairy tale… No, it’s not true. It’s kind of pretty awful.” He makes fashion a platform for dialogue and reflection about the world we live in. It’s not just about creating beautiful objects but about sparking conversations and encouraging people to think critically about their choices and the societal norms they subscribe to. His confronting things with the design that creates discomfort for some is exactly the reason why many others love him so much and revere him as a great artist.

 

The Set Design: With Conceptual and Artistic Depth

Balenciaga 24 Winter Set Design
Balenciaga 24 Winter Set Design

photo credit: balenciaga.com

Demna uses set design as the backdrop of his creations that engage with broader cultural and societal issues. In the Winter 2022 show, he let models walk through an artificial snowstorm with 100km/h wind speed in a glass bowl, echoing refugees’ conditions and the Ukraine war. It is impressive, not because it’s as grand as Chanel’s nor as dramatic as AVAVAV would put on. Demna said, “There is a conceptual and artistic depth to it”. In the 2019 Fall collection, Demna transformed a sound stage into a Parliamentary chamber, and for Spring 2023, the show was held on the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

 

For Winter ’24, every surface in the venue is a screen, enveloping models and attendees in a barrage of digital content. This immersive environment is designed to reflect the endless stream of data and images that define our daily experiences. It is Demna’s poignant commentary on how the digital age overwhelms our senses and perhaps detracts from our ability to appreciate the inherent qualities of human nature, which he considers pretty “dangerous”: “So I wanted to create this juxtaposition between the overload of content and the idea of us not being able to focus on things that actually matter.”

The Most Demna kind of Balenciaga

Balenciaga 24 Winter
Balenciaga 24 Winter

By juxtaposing references to Cristóbal Balenciaga’s elegance and the more controversial, drastic looks he’s known for, Demna seems to be questioning and expanding the boundaries of what is considered tasteful in fashion. By fusing the two directions into one, the Winter ’24 was considered “the most Demna kind of collection” by the designer himself.

 

Looking closer at the Winter ’24 collection, the evolution of Cristóbal’s silhouette and Demna’s aesthetic is evident on the designed tag attached to the gown’s sleeves. The tag unremoved as part of the look is a typical Demna aesthetic from his obsession with the idea of “ready-made”.

 

Having hammered his personal style for 10 years since his creation of VETEMENTS, Demna’s creation for this season inherits his typical spontaneous approach: The Bra Gown (although he admits it took much longer to engineer the look); Dresses and tops are either messily patched or taped together with transparent Balenciaga tape; Dust bags or trousers are used as tops, etc. All those elements are indeed very “Demna”.

Balenciaga 24 Winter
Balenciaga 24 Winter
Balenciaga 24 Winter
Balenciaga 24 Winter

Accessories: Remain Incognito

For many fashionistas, the futuristic 24/7 Mask is one of the coolest eyewear out there. This collection uses accessories to symbolize our tethered existence to technology. Models adorned with phone-cuff bracelets and vision-obscuring beanies (but allow one to see incognito). These design choices are not merely aesthetic decisions but are laden with commentary on how digital connectivity shapes our identities and interactions.

 

The 24/7 Mask, released after the show, has gone out of stock in no time, and now, the audience can try on the Balenciaga beanie from the collection through AR technology to experience how Demna feels about this over-saturated information world: “[the beanie design] It’s my status of being right now; I just don’t want to see all the stuff. [But] I don’t have a choice.”

Balenciaga 24 Winter
Balenciaga 24 Winter
Balenciaga 24 Winter

eBay Invitation

Worth mentioning, the 800 invitations for the show were all bought from eBay. Demna handpicked random antique pieces from eBay and sent them to the guests from Balenciaga’s headquarters. “The value is not the price; the value is the story behind, that we would never know. It’s a mystery. Nothing is mysterious anymore; everything is in your face. And I love their logos.”

Luxury Doesn’t Equal Fashion

Balenciaga 24 winter
Balenciaga 24 Winter

Doubting the normal conception of confusing luxury with fashion, Demna believes “fashion has been taken hostage a bit by the luxury industry, and now it doesn’t really need it anymore.” Demna rebooted Balenciaga’s couture project in 2020 after Cristóbal closed the door in 1968 due to refusal and repugnance about ready-to-wear. (Back then, due to the underdeveloped machinery and industry chain, RTW was considered bad quality and cheap, yet more than half a century later, custom-made couture and RTW are just two systems that operate in totally different approaches.) While paying tribute to the house’s heritage and proving his ability to compose the most delicate couture wear, this decision also liberates Demna in expressing his personal styles in the house: “Couture allows me to be free in RTW”, Demna told fashion journalist Cathy Horyn in a recent interview.

 

Demna can transform mundane things like a wildly acknowledged logo or everyday object into hype by changing its context. Evident in Damna’s T-shirt game: From the iconic DHL T-shirt of his VETEMENT era to this season’s eBay reverse T-shirt. On the runway, the “Ciao Bello” phrase appeared on a jumper printed in Coca-Cola font design; the “Keep calm and wear this Balenciaga sweater” slogan appears on a turtleneck. The Alpinestars biker gloves are transformed into a zipped pouch.

 

Demna’s manipulation of the clothing dialogue shows his profound read on contemporary culture and genius of making metaphorical commentary through his design based on his observations. He told the journalists after the show: “Fashion has to be radical; it has to be on the edge. Otherwise, it’s a scam.”

Demna Gvasalia by Agnes GE
Demna Gvasalia by Agnes GE
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