As Christian Dior said, Cristóbal Balenciaga was “the master of us all.” Aged just 22 when he opened his first Haute Couture atelier, the Spanish designer’s vision and taste level transformed an archaic industry, and even more so when he opened Balenciaga in 1937 — a brand far from what you know it as today. 

But after shutting its doors in 1968, Balenciaga was never the same. It went to the depths of fashion House hell by selling branded perfumes, and was later bought by German conglomerate Hoechste. Little else happened until Nicolas Ghesquière got hold of the reigns in 1997, marking the beginning of Balenciaga’s illustrious run of both bringing in and creating cult designers within its walls. Ghesquière’s tenure is without fail the most collectible of Balenciaga’s contemporary archive – with another headline-making stint from the controversial Alexander Wang’s stint as Creative Director from 2012-2015 – and today, we have Demna, continued to stir the creative pot at Balenciaga until it became charred and overcooked.

As you’re probably aware, Balenciaga and Demna’s controversy has had more twists, turns and revelations than an episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Following on from Summer 2023’s “The Mud Show” – which opened with Ye, the rapper and fashion mogul whom Balenciaga has since departed ways from – came a slew of problematic campaigns that riled social media. From BDSM teddy bears to documents in the background of a separate campaign detailing the Supreme Court case ruling of United States v. Williams, which heightened federal protections against child pornography, the campaigns were, ultimately, of poor decision-making and even poorer taste.

Since setting the internet on fire, Balenciaga has made considerable attempts to show change. It and its parent company, Kering, partnered with the National Children’s AllianceDemna spoke out in a tell-all Vogue interview, and through it all, products have continued to sell out. The latter is of particular poignance, because such furor for Balenciaga’s products is the Demna effect, arguably the sole reason why Balenciaga was the “hottest brand in the world” for three consecutive quarters between 2021 and 2022.

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