Specially designed to honor the aesthetics of an era that no longer exists, and that we began to yearn for with nostalgia after rejecting it, Balenciaga’s new Pre-Fall 2024 opened with sneakers and shorts worn by a bare-chested model engaged in a phone call. It then continued with a collection of hoodies, leggings, tracksuits, sports tops, and coffee cups embraced by the celebrity culture born in the 2000s. The collection, full of the pieces expected from the Demna era, was divided between casual wear and red carpet looks inspired by Cristóbal Balenciaga: first hoodies under oversized bombers and blazers, then cocoon coats, draped dresses, and form-fitting silhouettes. A minimalist post-Max Richter sound curated by BFRND played in the background, accompanying the runway show in Hancock Park, an ultra-chic residential neighborhood in Los Angeles known for its collection of Renaissance-style houses and villas.
“All my cultural evolution, when I was a teenager growing up in this kind of post-Soviet vacuum, it really came from here, through movies, music—I mean, everything that I kind of absorbed, that later on started to kind of become my fashion references.”
The American youth culture made in L.A. could not have been more inspiring for Demna, thanks to that languid, golden light capable of persisting even after sunset over the Hollywood hills. But also the neon signs, spotlights, makeup LEDs, red traffic lights at the intersection of Hollywood Boulevard and Highland Avenue: Pre-Fall 2024 is an Eyes Wide Shut translated into the world of fashion, an oxymoron on the ambivalence of Los Angeles’ reality that elevates it to a city of lights and shadows par excellence, expressed in miniature among the palm trees of Windsor Street and the Hollywood sign in the background – the quintessential symbol of Los Angeles sehnsucht.
While the first chapter is dedicated to activewear, in the next one, Demna Gvasalia has made the jersey itself protagonist, shaping the American fashion of velvet jumpsuits, interspersed with a neo-grunge moment: the garments are oversized and layered, the pants asymmetrical, the coats hand-embroidered, and the leather bags lined with nylon. Daytime dresses follow, infused with Los Angeles pop culture, perfectly encapsulated in a hooded jacket with an integrated scarf, designed as a deterrent for paparazzi. Evening dresses close the runway. The coat-dresses are wrapped in angular and sumptuous forms, while the one-shoulder dresses soften the scene. The final look amplifies the incognito element: a monumental white satin dress with an integrated face shield concludes Demna’s noughties parabola.
“I wanted to show the multitude of what L.A. represents to me.”
Among the accessories, there is a tribute to the iconic City bag launched in 2001—during Nicholas Ghesquière’s tenure—and a new Rodeo bag in honor of one of the most iconic streets in the Californian imagination. In Pre-Fall 2024, Balenciaga also introduced a new shoe, the 10XL Sneaker, along with a collection of t-shirts, hats, and grocery bags in collaboration with Erewhon, a supermarket founded in 1966 in Los Angeles and loved by celebrities. Even high jewelry, created in collaboration with Jacob & Co, could not help but be inspired by youth culture and opulence Made in the USA.
While the setting and the runway play on hyper-specific clichés of Los Angeles and Hollywood in general, the collection actually harbors a much deeper theme linked not only to the world of fashion but especially to contemporary society. It increasingly tends towards a thematic polarization that excludes opposing views and contradictions in honor of a moral and aesthetic rigor. For Demna, XL sneakers and oversized hoodies can still transform into the stronghold of a century-old fashion house, and bridal gowns can serve as a protective shield for the creative sturm und drang signed by Balenciaga.