Spring/Summer 2024 looked back at Demna’s disruptive roots, citing signatures past from giant sneakers to floor-length spandex gowns

Fashion designer, conceptual artist, provocateur, genius. These titles have swirled around Balenciaga’s Demna since the start of his tenure at the luxury house. His previous post at the helm of “design collective” Vetements was a crystal ball for the disruption that would ensue: hoodies so oversized their sleeves became a nuisance, or a runway show set at New York City’s Stock Exchange, with models’ faces obscured by neon gimp masks. While an unforeseen and very public brush with cancellation led to a more somber energy over the label’s last few seasons, Spring/Summer 2024 reminded audiences of one of Demna’s most important qualities: He’s a sentimental craftsman, deeply passionate about the transformative power of clothing.

This season’s presentation was an 87-look behemoth, traversing Demna’s shining moments at Balenciaga across daywear and eveningwear, from alien-like athleisure to floor-length spandex gowns. The show’s self-referential nature was clear, and never navel-gazing: Trench coats and leather biker jackets were styled with collaged denim, reminiscent of prints featured in Fall 2021’s ready-to-wear collection. The leather Antwerp bag looked like a reusable plastic grocery tote, harkening back to five years ago, when Demna crafted touristy t-shirts, jeans, and dad sneakers from luxe fabrics for a high-fashion edge.

A cast of models, including Royal Academy of Fine Arts professors, fashion critic Cathy Horyn, and Demna’s own mother displayed a menagerie of irreverent accessories—wallets made to look like passports with leather boarding passes inlaid, and clutches fashioned from stilettos or derby shoes. Balenciaga’s Greatest Hits wouldn’t be complete without a pair of clodhoppers; this season’s pair, named the Cargo, was so massive, they looked as though they were Photoshopped onto the runway.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the collection was Demna’s active attention to sustainability. Balenciaga introduced LUNAFORM™, a lower-impact leather alternative made from fermented nanocellulose, which comprised a full-length bathrobe. Recycled materials were the basis of several looks, including a dress made from a retro tablecloth, and a lacey amalgam of seven wedding dresses, modeled by Demna’s husband Loïck Gomez, better-known as BFRND, who also scored the show.

The runway was draped with red velvet curtains, evocative of the opening night of a Broadway musical. Demna’s work with Balenciaga was presented as a forward-looking, autobiographical performance. Wondering what’s next for the label is an understatement—we’re on the edge of our seats.