The Balenciaga Spring 2023 show took place today, but the fashion world has been anticipating it for weeks: After all, receiving a wad of fake cash (complete with a specially branded bill holder) in lieu of an invitation is sure to spark a good deal of speculation. The intrigue was only furthered, of course, by the fact that the label’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia, is a master of showmanship and cultural commentary. There’s always a deeper meaning behind his visually stunning catwalks and collections, be it our society’s obsession with celebrity (see Spring 2022) or the horrors of war (Fall 2022).
For this season, Gvasalia seems to have turned his focus to power, greed, and souped-up sportswear — you know, pretty much everything wrapped up in the American dream. Held in New York City’s historic Stock Exchange building, the show was backdropped by a dystopian set of screens flashing trading numbers and company icons. Eerie techno music pulsed as the models began walking out, swathed in full-body latex fetish suits (only their eyes and mouths were visible) and stark black clothing. There were some variations in this first section of the show (a few sharp ‘80s power suiting here, some slinky evening gowns there — even a long khaki double-breasted jacket to break up all the noir), but the overall mood was the same: ominous.
Then Gvasalia threw the crowd for a loop: The music suddenly shifted to a warbling, melancholic cover of Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York. Bit by bit the looks lightened up, first in silhouette (fluid skirts, flouncy bow blouses, slouchy knits — still mostly in black) and then in color (cream and soft taupes). Meanwhile, everything was accessorized with Balenciaga’s shoe of the season, the pumped-up pump — and boot, and, well, every kind of footwear.
“Within the Spring 23 collection, a classic pump is reimagined as the oversized, padded XL Pump,” explains the house’s show notes. “Steroid boots and derbies are thick in volume but lightweight, made from a single mold using super-exaggerated proportions.”
But perhaps the buzziest moment came when the Parisian Maison debuted offerings from its rumored-to-be Adidas collaboration (pictures of a sneaker from the line were leaked last month). This is certainly not the athletic label’s first time teaming up with a luxury house — it’s also joined forces with Gucci, Wales Bonner, and Khaite, to name just a few — but the designs from this partnership feel singularly true to the edgy, street-chic ethos of Balenciaga right now. Standout looks include oversized denim set with Adidas’s signature triple stripe motif, a neon yellow robe coat, and a floor-length anorak-turned-dress.
“A collaboration between Balenciaga and Adidas recontextualizes elements of sportswear that have been a part of Balenciaga’s creative language,” reads the show notes, which also reveal that a selection of the pieces are now currently available to purchase and pre-order on balenciaga.com and at label’s Madison Avenue store in N.Y.C for a limited period. “The line of ready-to-wear, shoes, bags, jewelry and accessories are marked with a badge of sport or trefoil logo over the name Balenciaga in the lowercase Adidas typeface.”
As a whole, the collection seemed to reflect a message both about the relentless, profit-driven churn of America, but also its citizens’ relaxed and casual attitude toward life as a whole. Clothes that work hard and play harder? This editor will take it (minus the latex underpinnings, please — summer is hot enough here in New York).