Balenciaga Fall 2024 Ready-to-Wear: Goodbye Angst, Hello Humor

What’s the difference between fashion and style? It’s a question Demna asked himself as he designed the fall Balenciaga collection, which stayed true to his hardcore, DIY inclinations but with less angst and more wry humor, even playfulness.

It was there in the beaded, animal-print gown that opened the show, the gum-snapping model not bothering to straighten her posture or remove the tag from the sleeve as she traversed a tunnel of video monitors broadcasting idyllic landscapes: mountains, deserts, forests and icebergs.

As marketing and merchandising departments gain more clout at Europe’s big houses — yielding collections dedicated to one color, a certain flower or some obvious trend like sheer or cowboy core — Demna wished to point out that it takes more than one idea to build a compelling show. So he placed a typed, full-page inventory of his inventions on each seat.

Many of them were very good, original and often witty: Long dresses made out of a succession of hoodies or T-shirts; trench coats, shirts and blazers that can be hung on the neck and worn like an apron, an idea Victoria Beckham hit on, too; trousers hung over the shoulders and tacked into loose tops, and roomy, crinkled men’s tailoring without any padding, as languid as a silk bathrobe. Big shoulder pads were reserved for the opening gowns inspired by the “hip-aulette” constructions of founder Cristóbal Balenciaga.

Clever accessories included beanies that you can pull down over your eyes and still see; a sturdy motocross glove repurposed as a zippered evening clutch, and stocking boots with built-in runs.

“I used this collection as a platform for creative expression, really focusing and putting the spotlight on my personal style,” Demna said in a phone interview the night before the show.

A eureka moment came when he was walking to work in Paris one morning dressed in a pavement-sweeping coat and wide, ragged jogging pants teamed with the very pointy, elongated dress shoes he had unveiled at his Balenciaga couture show last July. Two young men stopped him and asked if they could take a photo of his look, not knowing he was the creative director of Balenciaga or bothering to include his face in the snapshot.

In that moment, he realized that he was not only making collections, designing products, and questioning the fashion system, but also creating a style.

“I’ve been hammering this aesthetic for almost 10 years now. And it’s out of my hands. Because there are people who dress on the street who look like they might be wearing Balenciaga, but they aren’t. But the way they wear their clothes, the way they combine them, the way the proportions are, it is this Demna style.”

This show will be remembered for taking a step back from extremely oversized silhouettes, and for the gobsmacking set design. Calm pastoral scenes yielded to hectic urban life, and then a barrage of TikTok grandstanding and AI weirdness that ultimately dissolved into static.

“There’s beauty in reality that we often forget to notice because of time we spend on screens,” Demna said. “This overload of content is something I consider quite dangerous. I wanted to create this juxtaposition between the overload of content. And the idea of us not being able to focus on things that actually matter.”

He did let at least one brazen marketing message slip into the collection: A rib knit that read “Keep Calm and Wear This Balenciaga Sweater.”

For more Paris Fashion Week reviews, click here.

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