Balenciaga: Ready-To-Wear SS23

The overpowering smell of wet earth greeted Balenciaga show-goers, where the catwalk was precariously traced around the edges of a vast mud trench. This was no ordinary catwalk but a visual metaphor, for Balenciaga’s Demna, of digging for truth and being down to earth.  One couldn’t help but also think of war pocked landscapes, ravaged earth, shallow graves and Mordor. Despite the darkness (is this what it smells like to be buried alive?) the message of the show was was one of a powerful affirmation of self. 

In a statement left on each seat, Demna said: “I hate labels I hate boxes and I hate being labelled and placed in a box.” He talked of the courage and persistence it takes to be your true self “every day becomes a battlefield to defend this unique territory.” Fitting, then, that Kanye West – the most individual of individualists – should open the show. 

He stomped around the muddy trench in heavy flack jacket bristling with oversized pockets and matching trousers and a Balenciaga grill leering in his mouth. It was a combat ready look that did little to calm the nerves. The looks that followed were equally unsettling – tattered denim and spay-painted hoodies on models with bruised faces (thanks to skilled male-up artistry). The wardrobing was intense – there were great bombers, baggy denims and tees aplenty as well as beautifully tailored trousers and oversized suiting.

There were avant-garde moments too. A shoulder shopper bag was integrated with wearable leather and springy scarves spiralled down to the floor like giant pipe cleaners. Evening wear was stylish and uncomplicated with sequin T-shirt style maxi dresses or flowing sunburst pleated gowns bringing an easy-going appeal. 

Rather than feed the label monster, Demna said in his statement he had decided not to explain his collections or verbalise them. And whilst it’s sad that one of fashion’s most articulate designers is now so reticent, it’s also true that his clothes and shows, speak for themselves. “Fashion should not need a story to be sold to someone. You either like it or not.” We don’t just like it, we love it.

Photography courtesy of Balenciaga.

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