Demna‘s Balenciaga never fails to deliver a ground-breaking, headline-grabbing runway show — especially when it comes to its Paris Fashion Week presentations. While last season saw the luxury house take over Wall Street with its adidas collaboration debut, previous occasions included the emotional Winter 2022 display in the French capital, a red carpet presentation for SS22, and an episode of The Simpsons for the same latter season. With this in mind, the glitterati that has descended on Paris for Spring/Summer 2023 were in high spirits for Balenciaga, hotly anticipating today’s show. Was it going to be another star-studded runway like the Christine Quinn, Kim Kardashian, Nicole Kidman, Dua Lipa and Naomi Campbell-featuring 51st Couture show, or was Demna going to subvert traditions and twist the narrative in something left-field?
Well, for SS23, Balenciaga did exactly the latter. Invited with the lost wallet of Natalia Antunes, a random woman whose identity now sets the tone for a mysterious Balenciaga show, it seems Demna is up to his tricks once again. Such decoded messaging has influenced previous shows, from the smashed iPhone 6 for Winter 2022 that explored consumption, to the wad of fake cash for Balenciaga’s Wall Street takeover. What’s to make of “The Mud Show’s” lost and found Balenciaga wallet? Only the runway will tell.
Driven miles out of the Parisian city center, Demna also subverts fashion week norms once more — no local show, this is an effort, and one that should not be snuffed for a Balenciaga show often becomes the highlight of the season.
So, as for “The Mud Show” itself. Attendees, including Christine Quinn, Kylie Jenner, Khloe Kardashian, North West, Anna Wintour, et al, and hundreds more, sat in a warehouse covered and submerged in a mudslide. The walls and parts of the floor were covered in a thick wash of black mud, while ahead was a mud pit, 20 feet deep and cavernous, undulating in texture and height with numerous pools and puddles of water. The swampish scent permeated the room, while the high fashion crowd’s couture Balenciaga coats and pointed heels dragged through the sloppy substances.
In his show notes, Demna alludes to identity and self-expression, noting how it’s great to be different. He also says that “fashion loves boxes and labels more than anything. Luxury, not luxury, street, couture, good, bad, buzz, viral, all the same, who cares. Putting fashion into the box of polished, exclusive, and visually expensive is limited and pretty old school.”
To conclude, Demna explains that he has “decided to no longer explain my collections and verbalize my designs, but to express a state of mind… The set of this show is a metaphor for digging for the truth and being down to earth. Let us let everyone be anyone and make love, not war.
So with that in mind, the show couldn’t have been more Eau natural if it tried. Opening with Kanye wearing a full security rig, models (including Bella Hadid) followed with full force and a desire to power on, splashing through the thick mud and water with determination. Elsewhere, babies were strapped to chests in Balenciaga harnesses, tops were glittery and others were made in latex displaying a 404 Error code. Demna’s viral bag of Lays chips was turned into a pochette, while teddy bears became handheld accessories and another bag was turned into a wearable in the form of a glove.
Dresses ranged from sporty neck-hanging numbers to lamé glitter bombs, pleated and dragging in the mud. The use of glitter dazzled on chunky platform clog iterations of the Space Shoe, while a slew of new track-like sneakers and a return of the Knife Boot made numerous appearances.
To conclude, Demna sent out a Le Cagole dress. Like the boots and the bag it earns its name, this full leather dress was decked in Le Cagole-isms, bag handles and swinging accessories dangling from the body.
But throughout the show was a sort of nonchalance; the energy of not really caring. These clothes were quintessential Demna, the show itself was daring to push fashion’s pristine aesthetic into the dirt. Only Demna could do such a thing and have us all smiling at the end, while serving clothes that felt incredibly wearable — in the context of the mud pit, and IRL.
Take a look at the SS23 show from Balenciaga above, and stay tuned to Hypebeast for more Paris Fashion Week SS23 content.
For more standout moments, check out the spray-on Coperni dress.