How Balenciaga Defines Fashion in the Internet Era

If you’re a fan of high fashion, Balenciaga has been on your radar for years. The brand was founded in 1919 by Spanish designer, Cristóbal Balenciaga. Based in Paris, the luxury fashion house is currently run by creative director Demna Gvasalia, who also founded the fairly new French design collective Vetements. The fashion-driven season three of FX’s American Horror Story paid a. . . special tribute to the brand when the witch Myrtle Snow screams “Balenciaaaggggaaaaa!” as her last word before being burned at the stake. It’s a deliciously horrifying and funny moment that encompasses the effects luxury brands can have on pop culture, celebrities, and filmmaking. But what about the other way around?

Gvasalia is one of the only designers today that truly understands internet culture, and the huge impact it can have on the fashion industry—for better or worse. An article from Highsnobiety notes that Gvasalia’s vision for Balenciaga and Vetements both have minimalist, nuanced elements that are a reflection of how we communicate online. Youth wear and street style are two of the biggest influences in recent Balenciaga and Vetements collections.

With New York Fashion Week starting on February 8, Balenciaga has dropped their SS18 campaign photos on their Instagram for all to see. Thanks to social media, some Balenciaga pieces are majorly mainstream, and even getting replicated by mass market brands. By using images and references that are widely known and talked about online, Balenciaga’s ads don’t feel like ads, but rather another piece of photography that we’d see in our daily scrolls. Accompanied by bodyguards, paparazzi, and camera flashes, the new campaign looks like it could be straight from the pages of a celebrity tabloid.

Recognizability is arguably the biggest benefit a brand can have. While Balenciaga is a bonafide luxury fashion house, their logo and name may not be as widely known as Chanel, Louis Vuitton, or Gucci. Gvasalia has taken the issue of recognizability and turned it into a strength. By using motifs from the likes of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, and Ikea’s iconic blue bags, Balenciaga uses a certain irony that works so well with internet and meme culture, it’s readily accepted as cool.

The self-aware mockery of Gvasalia’s designs turn luxury into tongue-and-cheek metaphysical statements. Remember when Crocs were a thing? Balenciaga happens to have a Crocs collab in their SS18 lineup. Remember in 2017 when people were making their own clothing pieces from Ikea bags? We have Gvasalia to thank for that. Logo-driven fashion is all the hype right now. Think of youth wear brands like Supreme, Champion, and Off-White whose logos indicate status, and hold a certain cool factor both online and in real life.

Balenciaga’s latest pieces lack a large logo, but their campaigns blast BALENCIAGA in large font across the photos. Somehow this isn’t obnoxious, but actually irresistible to look at. It goes back to the idea that the pictures seem like something you could have viewed already. One might think the bags, pants, and coats that are being advertised take a back seat in such a bold photo. Won’t people be more focused on the model being snapped by paparazzi? The fact is, because photos like this have circulated pop culture since the beginning of magazines, the unusual feature of BALENCIAGA in front draws attention to the clothes.

The seemingly effortless cool that Balenciaga exudes is highly sought after in the fashion industry. Of course, the “effortless” part of each campaign is anything but. Every decision behind an ad is thoroughly thought out and purposefully made. The recent designs from Balenciaga incorporate healthy doses of irony, self awareness, and pop culture references to create hype-able, fun pieces. Is this genius? Yes. Will it incentivize me to buy $850 platform Crocs? Definitely not.

Photo sources linked in article