Balenciaga plays it safe enough at Paris Fashion Week

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Balenciaga plays it safe enough at Paris Fashion Week


Still, 700 guests — an uptick from past seasons — filed in to see how Balenciaga would approach its first show since the controversy around two ad campaigns released last year whose imagery was accused of being suggestive of child sexual abuse and pornography. Kering, which owns Balenciaga, launched an investigation following the incident and said it found no ill intent, “just errors of judgement”. Neither Demna nor Balenciaga CEO Cédric Charbit were fired; Kering CEO and chairman François-Henri Pinault said that people have the right to make mistakes in defence of the decision. 

In his first interview since the scandal broke, Demna told Vogue (which is owned by the same parent company as Vogue Business, Condé Nast) in February that he takes responsibility for the errors and said that he planned to change his approach moving forward. “It really changes my way of working, which has previously been more instinctive; doing something that would be seen as maybe provocative just because I was thinking, Oh, that’s fun,” he said. “This is part of my learning: I will have a more mature and serious approach to everything I release as an idea or an image. I have decided to go back to my roots in fashion as well as to the roots of Balenciaga, which is making quality clothes — not making image or buzz.” 

All of which brought us to today’s collection. There were 54 looks, including sharply tailored suits, evening gowns, and a new handbag named Huge Bag. With softer, feminine touches, the collection was more human, less dystopian — though the brand’s streetwear influence shone through with the addition of a zip-up hoodie plumped with inflatable forms sewn into their sleeves. “The idea was to be 200 per cent me,” Demna told reporters backstage after the show. “My idea was to purify, to edit it to the point where it speaks for itself.” About the romantic dresses at the end of the show, he said: “My team members are not used to that in ready-to-wear from me, so I had fun observing them being surprised by me making the lace dresses.” 

Vogue Runway’s Sarah Mower wrote: “Stripping back to the fundamentals of design — as against the performative, the ‘experiential’, and meme-generating multi-platform communication harnessed by brands — has been a thrust of this latest round of shows. Nowhere was the extreme tension between those two poles felt more sharply than at the Balenciaga show for fall 2023.”


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