A couple of months ago, we questioned whether Balenciaga’s next It bag would actually just be… a grab bag of crisps, having spotted Demna sat front row at a graduate fashion show in Antwerp with a packet of Lays perched on his lap or otherwise hooked under his arm as if it were a gorgeous pochette. Cut to the designer’s SS23 show – which took place this morning – and the greasy accessoire was reimagined as a lime-flavoured, calfskin clutch. In Demna’s mind, just about anything can be read as fashion, with the ugliest and most normal of items often engendering the most desire.
Having hawked a grubby, soiled shoe, a bin bag, and Crocs as luxury accoutrements, the designer clearly has a (Nik) Nack for turning trash into treasure. When @enfntserrible first uploaded that TikTok of Demna at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts showcase, its comment section reflected all the confusion and outrage that the designer has become synonymous with. “Balenciaga have just decided to see how much they can mock the people who buy from them,” an anonymous account named beyonceisaverageatbest wrote – a common response from people who like to level a particular brand of inverse snobbery against fashion fans. But, as Demna has said in the past, his work is not intended “to be ‘understood’ by the average social media critique” and nor does he care.
Ahead of today’s collection, Demna took that point further, announcing that he would no longer be explaining the motivations behind his work. “I hate boxes and I hate labels and I hate being labelled and placed in a box. Society, the internet, and the world in general loves doing that, because it feels safe that way,” his show notes read. “Fashion in its best case scenario should not need a story to be sold to someone. You either like it or you don’t.” At this point, we know what Demna is about: he’s been playing with the codes and symbols of consumerism for years, fashioning entire collections from DHL insignia and Bernie Sanders’ campaign branding in a Pop Art amalgamation of high and low culture. The Lays bag is just an IRL meme – albeit at $1,790 if the AW22 trash bag is anything to go by. For everything else that went down at Balenciaga’s mud-drenched SS23 show, click here.