Demna’s Spring/Summer 2023 show unites gimp masks and Adidas, on the brink of economic collapse
Given Demna’s penchant for apocalyptic staging, there couldn’t have been a better setting for Balenciaga’s latest show, as we hover on the precipice of another global financial crisis, than the New York Stock Exchange. Therefore, as Wolf of Wall Street types enjoyed their Sunday morning coffee yesterday, a very different crowd descended on the institution, each guest holding a stack of branded 100s that served as an invitation. Instead of a day’s trading, the opening bell heralded the mononymous designer’s latest collection, offering a characteristically twisted take on fashion under late capitalism.
What does that look like, exactly? Well, Demna’s given us no shortage of reference points over the course of his time at the head of the label. This time around, though, he dropped the logomania that characterised last year’s Gucci hack, opting instead to let Balenciaga’s iconic silhouettes do the talking.
Think: wide-shouldered tailoring, severe crocodile-skin overcoats, and black silk trenches with trains, paired with padded pumps or massive “Steroid boots” that saw models stomp down the runway to BFRND’s thudding soundtrack. An almost all-black palette also added to the sense of impending doom: perhaps this was a preemptive funeral for the world economy, which was shown glitching out on the surrounding screens.
If you’ve been keeping up with Demna’s experiments around identity and anonymity in recent years, or happened to glimpse Balenciaga stan Kanye West beside Anna Wintour on the front row, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that every model also sported their own latex gimp mask – no horn-rimmed glasses, striped suspenders, or pinstriped shirts here. Although, Demna himself might argue that this BDSM-inflected look isn’t as out of place at the Stock Exchange as it initially seems. “Money,” as he said backstage, “is probably the biggest fetish in the world.”
In the final section of the catwalk, a rare pop of colour came courtesy of Balenciaga’s latest supersized collaboration, which sees the luxury label link up with Adidas. The sportswear brand arrived on the trading floor via a range of baggy three-striped tracksuits, oversized outerwear and robes, and football shirts plastered with a corporatised take on the Balenciaga logo – all layered, of course, with more gimp masks and fetishistic bodysuits.
Whether it means wrapping us in latex, getting us into sport, or stoking fears about society’s imminent collapse, it seems as if Demna wants us sweating.