Balenciaga’s FW23 collection was a sharp contrast from past seasons and a new creative direction for the brand. The overall look presented felt toned down and restricted, embracing a timeless elegance without losing touch of Demna Gvasalia’s futuristic aesthetic through accessories and otherworldly silhouettes. Matured and refined, the garments were able to speak to a wider audience while still having elements tying it to youth culture through forward-thinking fashion.
THE MUSES WERE PRESENT
This collection didn’t enlist any celebrities to walk its show but we saw the return of Demna’s muses. Opening the show was Eliza Douglas, the American artist who has been present, often opening or closing, in every Balenciaga show since 2016 and was the only model (or at least a deep fake version of her) present during the 2022 Resort collection. In a typical Demna manner, the models weren’t just the typical young faces, as we also saw older models walk the runway.
THE SETTING WAS CALMED DOWN
This season there were no mud pits from hell or artificial snow storms. Instead, the brand opted for a classic and simple white room lit up by two fluorescent light strips, a much more restricted setting as opposed to what we are used to seeing from Balenciaga. The show notes explained this departure from the usual spectacle we see from Demna, stating that “Fashion has become a kind of entertainment, but often that part overshadows the essence of it”. Even the models’ walks were toned down, swapping out the viral ‘Balenciaga walk’ and its overpowering demeanour and mean-stare for a softer, standard industry walk. These changes to get rid of the theatrics Demna has become known for allows us to focus more on the actual garments, refining the overall tone of the show.
JACKETS WERE PUFFED OUT
Partaking in the trend of puffified fashion, Balenciaga showed a series of padded jackets. One came in the form of an actual stitched puffer with a high collar and raised shoulders almost erasing the presence of the neck. Elsewhere jackets were given extra volume, notably on a white zip-up that felt inspired by an airbag. The raised full shoulders and volume added at the back of the neck created an almost awkward silhouette with a hunchback effect that still felt innovative and in touch with Demna’s futuristic aesthetic.
A SUBDUED AESTHETIC
The collection was a sharp left turn for the luxury house, presenting a much more toned down yet refined collection that focused on the shapes and construction of the garments rather than an overpowering shock factor-first pieces. The show started with a series of oversized blazers, long coats and trench pieces setting the tone for a collection that would be smarter and polished. We also saw elevated gowns that were reminiscent of the original couturier’s love of classic, clean cut gowns. There was a shiny silver one that felt inspired by a knight’s armour as well as an asymmetrical white version with one cuffed sleeve and draped fabric over the other. With the exception of a few floral prints, each piece was monochromatic, leaving behind loud patterns and flashy logos to create an elevated collection.
Most looks were accompanied by futuristic sunglasses that wrap themselves around the models face, some in a classic all black look while others gave a pop of colour such as on a yellow-framed red-tinted pair. This added a hint of the avant-garde approach Demna is used to without distracting from the mostly ultra wearable looks. This theme also transpired into the footwear which was inspired by motorcycle gear, including the introduction of the new Excavator boots. The heavy-duty footwear was paired mainly with menswear looks, especially on the one-tone matching top and trousers, making the shoes the focal point of the outfit.
Bags were also a key accessory this season, coming in bulkier sizes and rather plain models. Stripped away from any eyelets or loose straps, one padded large bag came in a patented leather fabric which had vertical seam line dealings and a folded over panel and featured the double ‘B’ logo in both gold and silver iterations, matching the double-layered shoulder chain. Other bags put the emphasis on shape, featuring an rounded concave base similar to Balenciaga’s Crush and Hourglass bags.
ATTENTION ON THE ARMS
This season, Balenciaga paid extra attention to the arms of its garments by adding volume or creating draped shapes. Shoulders were seen exaggerated – on some blazers and jackets they were pointing outward while on dresses, coats and shirts they were rounded while still sticking out, giving the joint a swollen look. The sleeves also added interesting design elements. Some were made extra long, covering the hand, notably on a two piece black pleated look where the sleeves fell longer than the midi skirt itself, while others were given extra fabric towards the elbow to create a new shape with fluidity, including on a grey draped dress. On other occasions, the sleeves were cuffed at the wrist, whereas other garments were created with a flare, as seen on an oversized denim jacket.
Overall, this collection felt like an awakening for Demna Gvasalia. Stripping himself of his borderline satirical gimmicks, the Georgian designer has honed in on what makes Balenciaga what it is: a true experience of luxury.
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