When a shoulder is so bold it challenges convention, how can it be made bolder? When a silhouette is already so oversized, and the wearer appears shrunken in proportion, how can this be scaled up?
Balenciaga's Spring Summer 2024 show made a resounding statement by embracing significantly more bolder and oversized propositions. Creative director Demna, after last season's modest reset, opted for an unapologetic approach to proportion.
The collection kicked off with an amalgamation of two trench coats, cut and re-cut, that featured two sets of arms. Balenciaga is nothing if not challenging the notion of silhouette, or indeed, the meaning of luxury. The New York Times previously quoted Demna as saying he was a “bottom up” designer, elevating street codes, instead of top-down luxury. Perhaps most interesting was that the look was modeled by Demna's mother. The designer enlisted his 'nearest and dearest' to show the collection, which he said was his most personal to date. Demna's brother Guram Gvasalia, co-founder of their Vetements label, was notably absent, confirming in an Instagram post he was not invited.
The challenge of silhouette was present across the 87 looks, which also saw bomber jackets and coats displaying similar ingenuity. A new trainer proposition (the shoe category is one of the brand's cash cows) sported an extra-wide girth, deliberately creating an out-of-kilter look when paired with slim jeans and arms that disappeared into sleeves. The disproportionality is intentional, reflecting the collection's ongoing aesthetic.
The challenge of silhouette and proportion
However, the shock value associated with the bold shouldered and elevation of poverty has waned. The Ikea bag, the luxe copy of the Swedish fast furniture retailer, this season got the supermarket makeover, featuring a strawberry print on a leather shopper. The show is fun to watch, but also begs who are the brand's customers. Gen Z statement shoppers and celebrities?
When Demna and Vetements burst onto the fashion scene in 2015, their approach was fresh and poignant, the way they reimagined denim and emphasised proportions, marrying utility and Eastern European street looks with chicness. Balenciaga, under Demna's direction, is credited for introducing a new silhouette and language that captured the spirit of the time, seamlessly blending street cred with elegance. Yet, after nearly a decade of oversized fashion trends, the allure of supersized garments is losing its novelty.
Now that the tailored suit, the trench, the sneaker, the shoulder, the jeans and the bag have all been re-worked by the same Balenciaga method, what will the brand do next?