6 March 2023

Back to basics: Key takeaways from Balenciaga’s first post controversy show

Unsurprisingly, Demna returned with a simplistic overhaul, with no large logos or celebrities in sight for AW23.

Ever since Demna took over at Balenciaga, he transformed the brand into a juggernaut. The designer outdid himself with every show and collection, stirring up controversy and leading more and more eyes to the brand through huge brand collaborations and celebrity partnerships. However, as we all know, it all came crashing down in late 2022. The brand was accused of promoting paedophilia because of the contents of two advertisements published last November. And on Sunday, Balenciaga held its much anticipated first runway show since the scandal. Several media outlets have suggested that the show would be “a make or break” moment for the luxury company and its creative director, so it’s no surprise to see the direction Demna took with the return, stripping things back greatly. Here are our key takeaways from Balenciaga’s AW23 show and Demna’s return.

Demna went back to his roots

By now, we’re all used to the big, bold, bombastic Balenciaga aesthetic, with every piece attempting to be the loudest in the room. However, unsurprisingly, simplicity was Demna’s mantra for his latest collection. Detailing his time spent reassessing his position at the helm of Balenciaga and, more broadly, his relationship with the fashion industry in general, the designer explained he had “instinctively” returned to sitting down at a sewing machine and actually making clothes. “It reminded me once again of its amazing power to make me feel happy and truly express myself,” he wrote in his show notes. “This is why fashion to me can no longer be seen as entertainment, but rather as the art of making clothes.”

Even the show space took it back to basics

As we’ve often seen with Demna’s recent shows, the spectacle is everything. From gloopy apocalyptic mud pits to models looking and acting as if they’d been plucked straight from a horror movie, there’s always plenty to look at other than the clothes. This time, his show was set in an off-white dystopian box room deep inside the underground Carrousel du Louvre shopping centre in Paris. There was no chaos, just a cream carpet acting as the runway, allowing Demna’s looks to take centre stage.

There was a complete lack of celebrity presence

If you’re like us, then you probably pinched yourself when you noticed that brand devotee and former couture model Kim Kardashian was nowhere to be found at the show. In fact, there were no celebrities present at all. And considering this is Balenciaga, after all, that felt incredibly strange but more so refreshing. That has seemingly always been Demna’s preference, though, as he told press post show that he’s “never been into dressing celebrities,” citing celebrity endorsements as a byproduct of the brand’s growth and exposure. 

Demna wants to put the past behind him

The designer revealed at the end of the show that the chance to finally rediscover his passion was more exciting than nerve-wracking. “I have to say, I’ve been so nervous for so long now that I’m numb to it. I already suffered through it, so now I’m more excited. It’s a solid representation of my vision for Balenciaga, and as a designer, so I’m not nervous about that,” he said. Meanwhile, he implied that this would mark the beginning of a new era for the brand, putting the past controversy behind him. “At the end of the day, you have to bring out something positive even from horrible situations like this. For me, the positive thing has been reconnecting with myself and understanding what’s my real purpose. I go back to square one: making a jacket and a coat. It’s almost like rehab.”

  • Writer Chris Saunders
  • Banner Image Credit Instagram / Balenciaga

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