Throughout the past few years, Balenciaga has continued to fascinate the world with their unusual settings, themes, and designs in their already extravagant runway shows. Balenciaga’s shows have been featured on multiple magazines and have filled up people’s social media for weeks, but what most do not know is that they are even more creatively intriguing when it comes to the deeper meaning and message that Demna, the creative director of Balenciaga, wants to convey.
Balenciaga Fall 2022:
At last year’s fall Fashion Week in Paris, Balenciaga’s runway show took place in an artificially created Winter Wonderland. Dressed in mostly black garments, models were struggling to walk forward through the wind and snow within the arena. The picture of a snow globe, that was constructed for the show, symbolized the real threat of climate change for our future where snow will be a non-existent phenomenon of the past. The models who are struggling to get through the snow storm represent society, which is walking blindly towards this future, not knowing that their actions might affect the consequences of climate change.
However, this show turned out to be even more meaningful to the rest of the world - larger than Demna had expected it to be. When he heard the devastating news that Ukraine had been invaded, he first wanted to cancel the show completely; instead, he chose to use his platform to communicate an even more important message: “Ukraine, you are strong enough to resist! Don’t give up!” Being that Demna went to school in Ukraine and has experienced war before, he made it his mission to incorporate the message into his show to support and empower the country that he once called home. On top of gifting guests Ukraine t-shirts ending with “love must win”, he ended the runway with two looks, one yellow and one blue.
Balenciaga Spring/Summer 2023:
This year’s Balenciaga runway show at Fashion Week was undoubtedly one of the most disputed shows in the history of fashion. In an arena filled with mud, a distinct odeur of decomposition, and a bomb crater as the centerpiece, controversial rapper, producer, and fashion designer Kanye West opened the runway. The rest of the model’s faces looked beaten and pale; the clothing distressed and covered in mud, to further paint the picture of a post-apocalyptic scene that Demna wanted to construct in the minds of his audience.
This year’s Balenciaga runway show was created as a wake-up-call for the world; to show how the lack of action against these problems is possibly going to play out in the future. Climate change, the realistic threat of a nuclear war, rising inequality, and many more current earthly concerns that many choose to ignore, Demna addresses with this show. He even incorporated his own personal struggles of being a gay boy in Georgia and fleeing at the age of 10 (due to war) by stating, “I’ve felt like I’ve been punched in my face for being who I am. You have to stand up and continue walking, kind of like this crusade of discovering who you are and defending that.” By revealing his own struggles and the strangely accurate picture that he painted with this runway, he showed that there is still hope to stop such an “apocalyptic” event from happening if we wake up and act now.
What most think is randomly thrown together or even a social experiment, is a highly thought-out and creative work of art. Examining only these two runways, it is astounding to see the connections between the two: when snow melts, snow turns into mud; the snowstorm represents the apocalypse happening and the mud symbolizes the calm after the storm. However, both of them are prophetic warnings, in which Demna is trying to wake up the world and get them to act. Having experienced a lot of hardship throughout his life, Demna wants to protect the rest of the world from going through the same struggles.
Using fashion to comment on the world’s problems is risky, but Demna made it work like no other could. He has not only opened new possibilities for the fashion industry to have an even bigger impact on the world, but has also changed the way people perceive high-end fashion.