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Balenciaga SS23 collection at the NY Stock Exchange
Courtesy of Balenciaga

FTSE, but make it fashion: Balenciaga brings BDSM to the NY Stock Exchange

Demna just sent a troupe of models in leather gimp masks down the runway, along with a new adidas collaboration

FTSE, but make it fashion! Demna, who, lest we forget, goes simply by a mononym now, just took over the New York Stock Exchange for his SS23 show. Not since Carrie Bradshaw was invited to ring the bell and open the market in a 2003 episode of Sex and the City has the Wall Street space been at the epicentre of a such a raucous pop culture moment, but that Balenciaga would choose the home of rampant capitalism as a venue makes perfect sense, given the designer has spent the best part of the last decade exploring and subverting this very idealology. 

Unsurprisingly, this was no normal day at the office. When guests brandishing the wads of Balenciaga-branded 100 dollar bills that made up this season’s invitation (eyes on eBay, people) had taken their seats and BFRND’s Berghain-appropriate 'Hedge Fund Trance' began blaring out across the trading floor, the house entered its “late capitalism meltdown” phase. Gone were the suited and booted Gordon Gekko and Patrick Bateman types with phones clamped to their ears screaming “buy low, sell high” across the room (yes I have seen far too many movies), and in came a troupe of models in latex gimp masks.

If you’re a fan of the brand – and haven’t been living under a rock throughout the whole Kimye divorce saga – you’ll realise this isn’t a new thing. Demna has been incorporating face-obscuring masks into his collections since day dot, first when he headed up Vetements and later at Balenciaga. What set this show apart, however, was the fact every single model on the line-up wore the headgear, as Demna’s proclivity for a mask amped up considerably. Never mind that this was a summer collection: prepare to get sweaty for SS23.

These leather and latex looks were paired with an almost all-black collection of Balenciaga-fied corporate wear: wide-shouldered, heavy trenches were layered over equally voluminous suits, silky pussybow blouses were tucked into rippling, butter-soft cowhide pencil skirts, and crocodile-effect overcoats were cinched violently at the waist. Behind the models, the screens that line the walls of the space pranged out, as Twitter, Disney, and Visa’s logos crackled and flashed. It was as if the exchange’s computers had suffered a wild malfunction, or perhaps Wall Street had been hacked. Which it had been, in this instance, only by Demna as opposed to a bunch of cyberhackers (TBT Lizard Squad).

As BFRND’s jarring soundtrack faded out, a slowed-down, tinkling version of Frank Sinatra classic “New York, New York” kicked in, which, given the current state of things in America right now, gave the whole affair a deeply sinister, unsettling vibe. But there was humour in it, too, as the age-old trope of the balding, middle-aged trader going to a dominatrix to get his rocks off after a tough day on the trading floor was turned on its head. It was as if Demna was bringing these formidable, fetish gear-wearing characters out from their basements and dungeons to whip the people that control the world’s fortunes and exacerbate the wild inequalities that underpin society into shape. 

Rounding things off was another major collab moment. Fresh from hooking up with Gucci for its AW22 collection, for SS23, adidas was back on the runway at the Balenciaga show. On the line-up for the new season were more of Demna’s signature baggy tracksuits and corporate logo emblazoned football shirts, only this time they’d been given the three-stripe treatment courtesy of the behemoth sportswear brand. Because even Wall Street traders need a day off.

Watch the show below.