Did Demna fix Balenciaga?

A clean, white space, devoid of decoration aside from canvas-covered walls, graced the Balenciaga runway during Paris Fashion Week last Sunday. The fashion show, despite the sober environment, took place in the majestic halls of the Louvre. While there has been talk of a brand retooling, Demna, Balenciaga’s artistic director, has chosen to forego the theatricality of large-scale runway production to focus on what matters: the clothes.

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes after multiple criticisms for an ill-conceived ad campaign and then stoically withholding an outright mea culpa until the very end, Balenciaga had little choice this season but to return to his raison d’être. .

In December the CEO, Cedric Charbit, signed a belated apology from the brand, admitting “a series of serious mistakes for which Balenciaga takes responsibility”. The list of actions the company has taken have been conducted largely behind the scenes to improve internal operations.

Is there a visible sign of any branding changes?

Demna explained that “fashion has become a kind of entertainment, but often this part overshadows the essence.” A way of saying that it is urgent to return to the essence meant: building and deconstructing the garments, elements that are part of the production and sewing process of the clothes.

Without a doubt the pants were the starting point. They were cut, paneled and layered, like an extra appendage, flapping under oversized coats and jackets. A bomber jacket and leather jacket worn three sizes up had a familiar thrift-store allure, with the fabric as the point of elevation. Demna’s Eastern European origins are engraved in his silhouette, they are a legacy to him, just like the skinny fit is to Hedi Slimane.

Floral dresses and a series of narrow, long evening gowns had one shoulder shaped as the hand of Cristobal Balenciaga would have cut it.

Aside from a futuristic biker boot, the collection was devoid of sneakers and logos. Accessories were significantly tamed and focused on jewellery, handbags and sunglasses, like the enveloping alien hues now synonymous with the brand.

Without them on the catwalk, is Balenciaga still Balenciaga?

Kering’s sales have been boosted by the brand’s high-profile collaborations with Crocs and an array of recognizable re-releases, from DHL tops to company-branded streetwear to IKEA-inspired leather bags. It was the ultimate ugly sneaker, the Triple S, that brought Kering an endless stream of revenue. Without logo sweatshirts, without a Kim Kardashian what will happen?

And how many regulars are there in the market for all the oversized jackets and bulky shoulders Balenciaga has been showing for years?

That said, it has to be acknowledged that Demna is a once-in-a-generation designer who doesn’t have to be beheaded for a brand blunder, and he’s proven he can keep going. A major retooling can have the same effect on customers as a great production and theme. The test will be successful if the bosses speak for themselves

Written by Don-Alvin Adegeest for the UK edition, translated and adapted for fashionunited.it by Isabella Naef

Balenciaga PO F23 027 via Spotlight Launchmetrics
Balenciaga PO F23 004 via Spotlight Launchmetrics

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