Before the tomb of Napoleon, Balenciaga designer Demna staged a powerful show Sunday morning doing what he does best, dressing his friends and colleagues.
Quite literally, as his cast included his husband Loik Gomez, former teacher Linda Loppa, mantilla maiden Diane Pernet, and his Kering tastemaker Lionel Vermeil. All the way to his mother, with whom Demna fled Georgia aged 12 when the Russians invaded his native land in 1993.
A brilliant show as well, presented in a custom-made theatre, where the cast marched around the audience, and along a catwalk whose backdrop was a huge ruby-red stage curtain.
For spring/summer 2024, Demna envisages clients wearing all his key codes – outlandishly large shapes, giant blazers in artfully worn wools; massive floor-scraping cargo pants and primary-hued screen goddess cocktails and gowns.
“This is my most favorite and personal collection from set to cast because it was about me and my story,” said Demna, who said that he wanted to move from the “polished” collection he showed in spring to “something rough, which is more me, the integral element of my work.”
Many of cast clutching passports and boarding cards, from multiple nations, suggesting a nomadic existence and independence. While others clutched shoes, in an odd conceptual gesture. His show was in a mock theatre and his invite was an old book, everything as far from digital as possible.
“It’s not about social media, or likes, or a buzzy title in an article but the work deserving to be on a podium. What I care about is making clothes,” he said.
The heart of the matter was the deconstructed tailoring – four-sleeve jackets, trenches with extra tentacles and spy-coats and nylon parkas. Thrown in with several ballooning biker jackets like the one Kim Kardashian wore Friday night to Victoria Beckham’s after party. Before climaxing with conceptual screen goddess gowns that looked made from liquid sequins.
The wellspring of this fashion statement was an unpleasant experience this spring. When people in a restaurant in the south of France asked to change their tables away from Demna and his husband because they did not like the way the pair looked.
Leading the couple to buy new clothes so they could blend in, an experience, Demna described as “disgusting,” before showing photos himself in banal tourist gear – shorts, soft collar shirt and moccasins.
Musing that “all my life I’ve been a weirdo,” who has been “insulted for looking like a freak.”
“My fashion works from down up, and not from up down. That’s why I want to be true to myself. And to explain the power of clothes. Fashion is a powerful tool,” insisted Demna. Who was dressed all in black like a very trendy global travelling monk in worn duster, cargo pants, XXXL large sweatshirt with hood up.
A collection all about technical complexity, like the dramatic four-sleeve blazers in boiled navy wool with a classical pinstripe back worn by the much-respected critic of The Cut, Cathy Horyn.
“You can contact my agent if you want me for another show,” deadpanned Horyn after her catwalk debut.
Complexity underlined by Isabelle Huppert reading out the instructions on how to make a jacket. Mixed in with a dramatic orchestra fugue by BFRND, Huppert’s reading becoming increasingly hysterical at the finale of the show.
“I was playing the part of an exasperated professor furious with a very bad pupil,” laughed Huppert post-show.
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