Buy! Buy! Buy! In NYC, Balenciaga’s Stock Is Rising Even Higher
Under iconoclastic and mononymous creative director Demna, Balenciaga has unveiled collections in Paris, via a video game, and inside the Simpsons universe. But until Sunday, Demna hadn’t yet mounted a runway show in America, where some of his earliest, most enthusiastic, and most famous clients reside.
Which is why on Sunday morning, Ye—who’s been known to clear out entire stores of Balenciaga garments in one go—was pacing the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, taking in the brand’s Spring 23 show.
Demna, who wanted his first stateside Balenciaga show to take place in an iconic New York venue, has had a somewhat eerie sense of timing lately: his presentations, which have lately leaned into a hardcore sense of dystopia, have had an uncanny way of matching the vibe of current events. His long-planned Fall 22 outing, where blanket-clad models simulated trudging through a biblical snowstorm, felt all the more poignant against the backdrop of the Ukraine war and ensuing European refugee crisis.
Similarly, it felt darkly poetic that Demna held a show in the heart of Wall Street during a potentially recession-level stock market crash, even though this was, technically, a coincidence. “We thought about, like, what are the iconic places in New York?” Demna explained to a group of journalists after the show. Central Park didn’t work out, so they looked downtown. “I’m too busy fitting jackets and coats” to read the news about the stock market, he said. Still, as Demna often points out, fashion’s job is to reflect the world back at us. And he’s got a better sense of how, when, and where to do that than just about any designer working today.
(Less of a coincidence: Balenciaga will start accepting payments in cryptocurrency starting next month, according to a report this week, though Demna admitted he doesn’t own any and doesn’t understand it.)
The show began, of course, with the ringing of the NYSE opening bell. As dark techno music boomed through the space and the stock tickers and JP Morgan monitors around the room began to glitch out, models shrouded by kinky latex masks emerged on the floor.
The first half of the show unveiled something more surprising than it sounds: a bunch of beautiful suits and overcoats. Officially dubbed Balenciaga Garde-Robe, this was Demna’s seasonless, unbranded proposal for the white-collar worker, whether their day job takes them to a WeWork or a red carpet premiere. The color of one blue wool-gabardine suit screamed business casual. But the fluid cut spoke to a new sense of precision Demna has been exploring with tailoring since introducing Balenciaga Couture last year, the effect more elegant than extreme. The Garde-Robe palette was restrained: dark navy, khaki, black. One model held a coffee cup in his leather-gloved hand, stomping down the runway, trench coat billowing, like a morning commuter late for the office. Demna has always experimented with radically-proportioned suits, but these subtler silhouettes represented a cooler approach.
“At Balenciaga, we cater to different types of clients,” Demna explained. “We already have the streetwear, sport-inspired part, and the Garde-Robe part is really something new.” A demi-couture collection by another name, it’s aimed squarely at the rich and famous men who have recently embraced generously-cut tailoring like the ’80s never left. “It’s something, actually, I come from: People know me for hoodies, but actually my first piece I ever did [for Balenciaga] was a tailored jacket,” Demna said.
Lest anyone think Demna has lost his provocative edge, many models wore single-molded clown shoes that were so enormous they put even Ye’s largest gardening boots to shame. (Ye, of course, walked in wearing a pair of the new ones.) And then there were the slightly unsettling latex bodysuits. Besides driving home the idea of clothing as fetish, the kinky masks, one of which Demna himself wore backstage, “helped me style the collection, because otherwise I would find it a little bit too classic,” he said. Mission accomplished.
Speaking of commercial: you can already buy pieces from the second part of the show, a collaboration between Balenciaga and Adidas consisting of oversized tees, soccer jerseys, denim jorts, and track jackets, all emblazoned with the three stripes. The infamous Triple-S franken-sneaker is back, too, and now it looks like it has devoured a pair of Sambas. The collaboration has been in the works, in a sense, since Demna was a young boy: “I always wanted to use three stripes and the logo, to be very honest with you. As a seven year old kid, I had an Adidas tracksuit, and that was my biggest fashion moment when I was a child.” Prada and Gucci already have big-time Adidas collaborations, but Demna is the guy who turned luxury warmups into a Balenciaga—and, in turn, a fashion world—staple.
The Adidas x Balenciaga pieces are available to pre-order for a week on Balenciaga.com. Ironically, that will probably help make sure the collab doesn’t become part of the speculative secondary market, where hyped-up garments are traded like commodities. Also for sale? A genuinely great oversized tee emblazoned with the official NYSE logo. Before the show, several attendees wondered what it took for Balenciaga to rent out the stock exchange. “It was really super easy,” Demna said after. Hey—money talks.