Is Balenciaga...back? The Parisian house under Demna never really left (it sort of went dark for a moment after the child model controversy). Instead, I'm talking about Balenciaga returning to its pre-scandal, pot-stirring ways.
Balenciaga just put on a big show in Los Angeles on December 2, its first runway in the City of Angels. The brand plopped some chairs in the middle of the street in the Hancock Park neighborhood, which also has the best view of the Hollywood sign. Of course.
When in the city of stars, the human ones flocked to Balenciaga's Fall 2024 presentation. I'm talking Kim Kardashian, Kendall Jenner, Tracee Ellis Ross, Sexyy Red, 2 Chainz, Rachel Sennott, Flo Milli, Salma Hayek, Brooklyn and Nicola Peltz Beckham, new brand ambassador Nicole Kidman. I could go on, but I think I made my point: Balenciaga's guest list was stacked.
Oh, and longtime Demna muse Cardi B walked in the show, in case you missed the viral moment.
Balenciaga's Fall 2024 soundtrack, scored by BFRND, featured everything from yoga class ads to generic "Yeah, I'm rich"-esque tracks you'd likely hear on Selling Sunset.
Models resembled the city's famous residents in incognito Balenciaga looks — shades on, coffee cup in hand, and an Erewhon bag from their quick grocery run (planned or not).
Juicy Couture-level velour tracksuits paired with exposed thongs and UGG-like stompers, reminding us the our aughts icons like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Funny enough, Juicy's co-founder, Gela Nash Taylor, was in the audience at the Fall 2024 presentation.
Balenciaga also unveiled a collaboration with Erewhon, expanding the expensive LA-based grocer's fashion collaboration streak. There was also lots of activewear and sporty layers, giving way to oversized zip-ups paired with tanks and baggy shorts over skin-tight leggings.
Evening gowns felt very Hollywood premiere-ready and referenced some of Cristóbal Balenciaga's original designs. The evening wear was probably some of the best looks, to be honest.
Essetially, Balenciaga's Fall 2024 collection saw Demna, well, Demna-fy LA culture, resulting in garments that felt very LA but also very Demna's Balenciaga.
That brings me back to my question: Is Balenciaga back? With Fall 2024, I'd say... maybe. At least, Balenciaga is back to where it was a year ago, in terms of public comfort.
Balenciaga Fall 2023 was extremely calm, as expected for the house's first show following the 2022 scandal. Spring 2024 saw Demna test the waters with viral bath towels as expensive casuals and biker bootpants (or pantboots?). Then, there was Summer 2024, which gave us a tad bit more old Balenciaga with a theatric setting, Demna's loved ones as models, and those wild Cargo sneakers.
Balenciaga Fall 2024 is probably the best example of today's Balenciaga returning to old Balenciaga form — "old Balenciaga" being Demna's gimmicky products and dramatic presentations.
Don't get me wrong: Fall 2024 is much of the same Balenciaga by Demna, regurgitated in almost the same outfits and manner. But a huge show with the Hollywood sign in the background? Juicy Couture-like sweatsuits with the co-founder in view? Hyuck-worthy sneakers fit for Goofy?
It has old Balenciaga — wild shenanigans, over-the-top locations, tongue-in-cheek clothes — written all over it. Sure, it's no pummeled Paris sneaker or chip bag bag moment. But the classic gags and parodic flexes — shades of the faux Apple merch and Supreme box logo hoodie are there.
The question is: do fashion folk care anymore? With everyone on the quest for virality and trying to "out-wild" each other these days, some replies to Balenciaga's new show requested, as usual, that certain labels make "real clothes" in place of social media attention grabs. No surprise there.
But combing through reactions to Balenciaga's Fall 2024 show, a few did give credit to the house's couture-y pieces — they were pretty good, I will say — though even more brushed off the huge clothes and cartoonish shoes as "tired gimmicks." And loads of folks aren't over the controversial Spring 2022 campaign, which is what inspired Balenciaga to start over with a clean slate.
Balenciaga's Fall 2024 may be the Balenciaga's "back to form" moment. But one can't help but wonder if the buzz will be enough to return the world's once-hottest brand its crown, or if the family jewels are forever tarnished.
Maybe the simple fact that we're still asking the question is proof that it remains unanswered.
Can't fault Balenciaga for trying, though.