For his first Balenciaga show staged outside of Paris, Demna headed to New York, where he took over the iconic New York Stock Exchange and put on a show that was as much a commentary on modern capitalist culture as it was a reiteration and expansion of the Demna-isms—exaggerated classics and elevated streetwear—that have turned the brand into a billion-dollar juggernaut. In the context of its location, the collection he showed read extremely American—and yet at the same time, it also cohered seamlessly with what the designer has been doing at the French brand.
On the trading floor, with screens flashing the names and logos of mega-companies like Coke, Twitter, Visa, Disney and Morgan Stanley, Demna sent out a collection that built on where his haute couture outing last July left off. But where that collection was serene, monastic almost, this one had a menacing undertone to it. The first look set the mood: a strong-shouldered, floor-length coat worn with a giant pussybow, a latex gimp mask, and optical glasses—all in black. It was American Psycho meets American Horror Story, soundtracked to a soft, slowed-down version of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York.
Demna kept up the fetish bodywear underpinnings all the way through—lending a dark, Lynchian thrill to looks both corporate and casual. That first look was followed by tuxedos and suits, trench coats and cocoon wraps, and evening gowns in silks and sequins. They were worn with padded pumps and derbies blown up to clownish proportions—further adding to the deliberately unsettling quality of the proceedings.
Then came the adidas collaboration we never knew we were missing. The sportswear brand has been a prolific fashion partner of late, but here, it fits in perfectly with the world and aesthetic that Demna has constructed for Balenciaga. Oversized suits came trimmed with the three stripes of the German brand, as did bomber jackets and denim jackets. There were extra-long t-shirts, baggy but shapely tracksuits, robes that were part dressing gown and part opera coat, and football jerseys—all emblazoned with the adidas trefoil or its three-stripe logo; Balenciaga spelt out below it in the adidas typeface. Cleverly capitalising on the immense buzz brought about by the collab, the pieces were made available for purchase and pre-orders immediately after the show.
It was a tour de force that hammered home Demna’s singular talent for bridging the conceptual and the commercial. The show might be profound and provocative, but part of Demna’s genius also lies in creating straightforwardly desirable product that will appeal to wide swathes of customers regardless of whether they get the social commentary or not. And this collection, so aptly presented at the epicentre of consumerism, is sure to get the cash registers ringing.