You are probably familiar with the recent controversy that Balenciaga has found themselves entangled in. In case you're not familiar, Balenciaga controversy has had more drama than an episode of Love Island. It all started with Summer 2023’s “The Mud Show” – when Kanye West, the rapper and fashion mogul whom Balenciaga has since cut ties with – released problematic campaigns that riled social media. From children holding BDSM teddy bears in one campaign to documents detailing the Supreme Court case ruling of United States v. Williams, which strengthens federal protections against child pornography, the brand's recent campaigns were hallmarked by poor decision-making and bad taste.
Lately, Balenciaga has made considerable efforts to right their wrongs. The brand partnered with the National Children’s Alliance, and Creative Director Demna spoke in a tell-all Vogue interview. Despite the controversy, products have continued to sell out. The tell-all interview is particularly important, because such furor for Balenciaga’s products can be described as the Demna effect. The Creative Director is arguably the main reason why Balenciaga has dominated as the “hottest brand in the world” for three consecutive quarters between 2021 and 2022.
Since he joined Balenciaga in 2015, Demna’s vision for the brand was a House steeped in a luxurious past redone for the modern day. Classics adidas collaborations and Helly Hansen Haute Couture parka jackets displayed alongside ornate jewelry, little black dresses inspired by the founder of Balenciaga and namesake Cristóbal’s designs, a selection of it-girl handbags, and a whole lot of viral moments.
Demna discusses these viral moments in a recent vogue interview. Demna addresses why the brand might have became fashion’s go-to meme: “Often in my work, I reference things that are somewhat mundane and relatable and easy to understand, and over time, that approach is why we’ve become associated with pop culture. Of course, there is also the celebrity aspect, but I have to say, I have never thought about dressing celebrities or aiming my designs at them. Actually, I was quite opposed to it for a while, until the brand grew in a certain way, by which point it was inevitable [we’d work with them] Being part of pop culture brings virality to any subject, so the viral aspects of that subject can end up having a massive impact.”
With the Winter 2023 show approaching on the fifth of March, the brand seems to be hinting at a more classic show. Demna was seen in a Vogue interview hinting at simple show to draw more attention to the clothing. Along with that, the House used its Instagram feed to remind fans of their roots with black-and-white footage of Cristóbal Balenciaga’s collections from the ‘60s.
Balenciaga is taking a risk, and there are two outcomes. Moving away from the trendy, viral direction might push their current fans away; a lack of branding and TikTok-able designs have been hallmarks of the House for almost five years will definitely change the pop culture identity of the brand.
However, Balenciaga is also leaving trendy, popular-for-a-second style in favor of classic designs that last, something long term fans will appreciate. By stepping away from viral TikTok designs, and going back to the basics, Demna is not only accepting the ethos of his House, but celebrating it.