On Sunday, the last day of the seventh straight week of a tumbling Dow, another meeting took place in front of the New York Stock Exchange as titans of industry and finance gathered in Davos, Switzerland, for a delayed World Economic Forum.
There was shouting. There was a rush. Police officers and barricades were gathered.
They weren’t there for Occupy Wall Street redux, or any kind of protest against the current markets. They were there for the Balenciaga show in the spring of 2023, the brand’s first show to be held outside of Paris, which also happens to be the first show ever held on the trading floor of the symbolic beating heart of creating and destroying. of American wealth.
Even the financial system, it seems, can be seduced by the promise of fashion. At least for the right price.
Regardless of the debate surrounding Demna, Balenciaga’s mononymous creative director – is he a genius, a charlatan, the most influential designer of his generation? – there’s no denying that he has impeccable timing.
Or that in an era where so much seems to have been reduced to the instantaneous and the micro, from daily TikTok trends to subcultures for dressing, he is the rare designer with mammoth ambition, willing to make big swings in our shared reality: climate change, celebrity culture, war. And now money.
In the towering, neon-lit room where corporate executives gather to ring the opening bell as their companies go public, guests including Kanye West, Christine Quinn of “Selling Sunset,” Megan Thee Stallion, and Mayor Eric Adams sat on stools that snaked through the tangle. of broadcasting booths. The first model stepped out in a full-body black latex unitard, with pierced eyes and mouth, worn under a black wool coat with double breasted buttons, sharp and padded shoulders, a luxurious satin bow that dangled down the neck. Oh, and wire-framed glasses on the bridge of her nose.
When statements are about the fetishization of finance, its dangers and appeal, not to mention the dangers and appeal of going back to the office, it doesn’t get much clearer than that.
In case you missed it, it happened time and time again. All the models wore the bodysuits, their faces obscured, some with tufts of hair poking out of the top: individuality stifled by the pursuit of profit, all slaves to work and fashion, the gushing blood of the city. (Backstage, Demna also wore the latex, though he said the bodysuit wouldn’t be for sale.)
There were roaring, rigorously tailored powersuits. And, stripped of the styling and cultural commentary, they really are: the kind of clothing that instills confidence from the outside in. There were ‘Working Girl’ blouses promoted to the executive suite with crocodile-print leather skirts, polka-dot pleated dresses and pocket-back trench coats that fasten around the hips. Also huge romper stomper clown boots, pumps encased in what appeared to be small inflatable life rafts, and a briefcase-like “Money” bag that opened from below.
It was like touring the uniform clichés of FiDi, filtered through a black mirror lens, so elegance mixed with absurdity in almost equal measure.
The office wear, according to a Balenciaga press release, is actually the start of a new line called Garde-Robe with “wardrobe staples” that will be a kind of perpetual offering between ready-to-wear and couture.
In between were stripped-down, body-conscious dresses, swishy satin separates (including a great evening pajamas and satin trench coat complete with train) and, finally, the brand’s latest collaboration: Balenciaga/Adidas, complete with three stripes on suit and sweat, the trefoil on top. a little “balenciaga” on T-shirts, and some really great Crayola clear robes.
Of course it was still about profit – streetwear and its related category, athletic wear, is the latest market fetish of high fashion brands – albeit in a slightly less provocative and more predictable way than before. After all, the collaboration follows a similar Adidas joint venture with Gucci and one with Prada.
Until that point (thankfully) there was not a single logo in sight, a reflection of the fact that since joining the brand, Demna has created such a clear design signature that it is recognizable without the need for additional initials. That it doesn’t change much from season to season is part of the point. Just battering ram shoulders, hips constructed with couture pinches and pleats – the ordinary turned into something completely different.
The ability to make you look and then think again. Maybe we’ll go back to work and get dressed. Maybe we shouldn’t. Either way, we should at least consider the implications and costs of all of this. It’s priceless, it really is.