You’d be hard pressed to find a more iconic FROW than the one Balenciaga brought in for its resort show yesterday in NYC. Kanye, Alexa Demie and Frank Ocean sat with Anna Wintour, whilst Pharrell and Megan thee Stallion rubbed shoulders with the mayor of NYC, Eric Adams. Seating wasn’t the most comfortable, though – owing to the fact that the seats were stools, and the stools were in the New York Stock Exchange.
Balenciaga’s resort show was its first in America, and drummed home the message of riotous capitalism. After briefly considering Central Park for the show’s location, the NYSE was settled on as the perfect stage to represent this collection – money, greed, capitalism, but perhaps above all, power.
Beginning with the ringing of the Stock Exchange bell, music soon gave way into deep techno, and screens began glitching as models took to the catwalk. Focusing in on accessories, and Balenciaga showed crinkle-cut sunglasses alongside larger, all-black frames, whilst shoes were blown up into exaggerated proportions, recalling the surrealist shoes shown at Thom Browne weeks earlier. These also signalled a progression from the brand’s chunky boots that Ye famously popularised – and which he was wearing on the day.
But in contrast to Balenciaga’s typically uber-oversized streetwear silhouettes, Demna used this show to debut a new line for the label: Garde-Robe. Describing the line as “the missing link” in Balenciaga’s offerings, we saw strict tailoring in trench coats, suits and blouses, adorned with draped collars and cuffs, as well as a series of black satin or sequin dresses. This inclusion made sense for attracting a new customer base – presenting an offering for the buyers who still want to tap in on Balenciaga’s hype, without deviating too far from the pieces in their existing couture wardrobe. Big spenders, in the hallowed halls of big spending.
However, whilst the Garde-Robe line was perhaps made to appease a select wealthy few, Demna offset proceedings by confirming Balenciaga’s long-rumoured collab with adidas – this time appealing to commerciality, and consumption in numbers. Here, we saw adidas’ classic logo and three-stripes across, well everything. Socks, tracksuits, balaclavas bags and tees all, in turn, saw a return to Balenciaga’s streetwear inspired oversized silhouettes. There were also Balencidas jackets which resembled a dressing gown – playing into the ‘dressing down’ collab concept in direct opposition to the Garde-Robe line.
Reactions to Balencidas so far have been mixed. Whilst some are loving adidas’ recent slew of luxury collabs (Prada and Gucci have both collaborated with the sportswear giant in recent seasons), others have dubbed the collection as lazy – slapping each brand’s logo on regular adidas pieces, but inflating the price to Balenciaga levels. The socks alone cost $150, and the much meme-d Triple S’ would set you back nearly a grand. Originally teased back in April, the Triple S’ return sees adidas’ three stripes, a monochrome colourway, and a fan in Pharrell – who wore them to the show.
Styled with latex masks (which entirely obscured the models’ faces, and have since drawn comparisons to Avellano’s AW22 collection), Demna borrowed from the language of fetish and kink to present the Balencidas debut, citing that without this, it would feel “too classic”. Flipping elements of streetwear into coveted and hyped luxury has always been Demna’s thing, from VTMNTS to Balenciaga. When designed in collaboration with these brands, ordinary design motifs take on new meaning: elevated in craftsmanship, materiality but also meaning, all made possible by the elevated price point.
What’s more, the collaborative collection is already available to order online, feeding into the type of conspicuous consumption that the show’s concept already hinges on. If modern-day Balenciaga has become known as the house of hype, this show flipped perceptions slightly – ushering in a new age of Garde-Robe, and cutting through the anticipation of limited new releases by dropping Balencidas the same day it was shown. It does however, remain to be seen as to whether this will work as well as previous release protocol for the label. One thing’s for sure though – Demna’s politically-minded concepts, street-lux expertise and consideration for commerciality have collided here to produce a resort show which questions the relevance of genre fashion: why limit yourself to one thing, when you can have them all?
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