Guests unhappy about the timing of Balenciaga’s spring 2023 runway show this Sunday in New York soon forgot their complaints as they entered one of the Big Apple’s most hallowed halls, to which the fashion world doesn’t usually have access: the New York Stock Exchange. The French firm, owned by the Kering group, embarked on something unusual for a company that for the first time, under Demna’s direction, is holding a runway show in the Big Apple.
The New York money fever could not be missed, and was evident in the wad of counterfeit $100 bills that arrived in a crumpled paper bag as an invitation, where the Wall Street address was revealed.
The teaser images on Balenciaga.com suggested a certain nostalgia for the «city that never sleeps».
Images of pre-2019 cabs (when the surcharge was $1.50) driving around Times Square with a news summary announcing the bankruptcy of Tavern On the Green, once owned by Warner LeRoy, which during the 1980s and into the early 2000s produced the highest gross revenues of any restaurant in the United States.
Something that reflects that Demna’s vision of New York may be somewhat dated. Right now, the most significant similarities to that era are crime, subway problems and the rat population. Unlike the 1980s, Trump is no longer welcome, cocaine has fallen out of favor in the face of the pill boom and, despite the Fed’s recent interest rate hike, interest rates are a far cry from the 1981 high of 16.63%.
Inside the venue the opening bell rang to kick off the parade. Guests such as Chloë Sevigny
Pharrell Williams, Ye, Megan Thee Stallion, Frank Ocean and New York Mayor Eric Adams occupied the bargain stools as seats as they watched multiple screens displaying international news and a ticker with stock quotes. The models walked out to the beat of a bewildering soundtrack with New York’s favorite color scheme for decades: black and more black. Fortunately, the soundtrack gave way to a female voice belting out a melancholy rendition of «New York, New York.»
Demna gave a twist to some of the Wall Street wardrobe staples of the 1980s: coats and trench coats, double-breasted jackets, pussy bows, trapeze skirts, long, tight-fitting dresses…. But to make the wardrobe of the real-life Gordon Gekko and those stereotypical and politically incorrect «sexy secretaries» of the time a little more subversive, the designer added black latex hooded masks (we hope that, for the sake of the models, the air conditioning was working at full blast backstage as there was a record-breaking heat wave in New York that day).
These sartorial looks are part of the «Garde-Robe» line of what is presumably a ready-to-wear closet fund. He completed the looks with cartoonishly sized men’s derbies on «steroids» and puffy lounge shoes for the women. In addition to these accessories we saw lots of items to appeal to all generations, i.e. clothes for big kids.
But Balenciaga had also come to play and, perhaps in anticipation of the big after-party, a hard-to-resist electronic trance soundtrack began to play midway through the show, making guests move in their seats. The screens began to spin out of control, making stock prices and news headlines go crazy. The mood coincided with the collaboration between Adidas and Balenciaga, which got the cool kids and trend-lovers excited. Continuing with the oversize line, Demna put his stamp on classic tracksuits, hoodies, T-shirts, shorts, duffel bags, wrestling-style coats and sneakers. Several of these included tweaks to the logos, with Balenciaga written backwards.
The special release went on sale immediately on Balenciaga.com at 12:30 p.m. EST and will be available for exactly one week. Prices are in keeping with the excesses of the 80s: starting at $210 for a pair of socks, all the way up to €5500 for a down jacket. T-shirts cost an average of $795 and sneakers $995. Clothing doesn’t have to be so expensive, but it is because it can be. For example, the «completely destroyed» sneakers, which looked as if New York rats had gnawed them to boredom, recently went on sale for $1850. Perhaps taking the greed of the 1980s literally?
At the climax, the screens seemed about to explode before shutting off and displaying a blank screen. The moment, at this economically significant point, was eerie, as if to remind us that when we push the limits, sometimes they explode.