BALENCIAGA OPENS A DRAMATIC NEW BOUTIQUE AT SOUTH COAST PLAZA

BY LAURIE BROOKINS

As Demna’s high-wattage runway show on December 2 nears, the Paris-based brand has opened an expansive new boutique, while also naming Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh as its latest ambassador.

If you’re seeking a fashion label that’s foremost in the minds of SoCal style fans, look no further than Balenciaga. From Kim Kardashian at the November 12 Baby2Baby Gala to Beyoncé Knowles on her record-breaking Renaissance tour, some of the world’s most famous women love to wear Demna’s dramatic designs — and now the comprehensive Balenciaga experience can be enjoyed by every fashion aficionado, thanks to a chic new boutique at South Coast Plaza, which also benefits from a moment of perfect timing. 

Kim Kardashian at the 2023 Baby2Baby Gala on 11.11.23 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Gilbert Flores/Variety via Getty Images)

With the approach of the much-anticipated debut of Balenciaga’s Autumn 2024 collection in Los Angeles, a runway show set for December 2, the house opened the doors of its expansive new two-story boutique at South Coast Plaza on October 30. Spanning nearly 9,700 square feet, the retail destination offers a comprehensive selection of men’s and women’s ready to wear, shoes, bags, accessories, eyewear and jewelry. South Coast Plaza clients can access the boutique from both the lower and upper levels, where they’ll discover a high-concept store design that’s rooted in Demna’s love of the Raw Architecture movement: Details include brushed concrete floors, open grid ceilings, industrial lighting, high-definition video screens, and walls and shelving units crafted in a stained and aged concrete.

The result is a stark, minimalist space that not only creates an intentional contrast with its surroundings, but also serves as a terrific framework for Demna’s modernist designs. This includes the Winter 2023 collection currently in the boutique: Debuting in Paris at the Carrousel du Louvre in March 2023, the latest collection explores Demna’s desire to distill his love of what he does into the purity of fashion’s craft. 

“Fashion has become a kind of entertainment, but often that part overshadows the essence of it, which lays in shapes and volumes, silhouettes, the way we create relationships between body and fabric, the way we make shoulder lines and armholes, the way clothes have an ability to change us,” Demna noted in his Winter 2023 show notes. “In the last couple of months, I needed to seek shelter for my love affair with fashion, and I instinctively found it in the process of making clothes. It reminded me once again of its amazing power to make me feel happy and truly express myself. This is why fashion to me can no longer be seen as an entertainment, but rather as the art of making clothes.”

For anyone who loves the essence of design, it was a thrilling statement from the man who since 2015 has helmed the house established in Paris by Cristobal Balenciaga in 1937. On the runway, Demna’s note was quickly followed by the clothes currently available in stores, from exquisitely tailored jackets to beautifully crafted gowns with cape details or embellished with a flurry of head-to-toe lace or sequins. The dominant color was black — which notably has become the key trend of the season in red-carpet dressing — but Demna also has punctuated his penchant for dramatic black with splashes of yellow, pale lime or rose pink, seen in his floral-print dresses. 

His love of biker details is also much in evidence, from the motocross-inspired boots for men and women to the latest of the label’s famed La Cagole XS Sling crossbody bags, crafted in lambskin and accented with studs in aged silver. But it was the oversized Monaco bags, a quilted calfskin in black with substantial chain shoulder straps and ornamented with the house’s now-iconic BB hardware, that proved to be the most coveted pieces from the collection. For an additional punch of color, consider the brand’s ultra-classic Knife pump in brilliant pink velvet or, for ski fans, pieces from the just-released Ski capsule, including the 3B Sports Icon Ski Gloves in vivid lipstick red.

And in advance of the Spring 2024 collection arriving in boutiques, Balenciaga offered an equally sensational announcement: Oscar winner Michelle Yeoh has been named the House’s latest brand ambassador. The Academy Award winner for her best-actress performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once has long been a fashion favorite on red carpets — which lately included wearing Balenciaga haute couture in May to the Cannes Film Festival — and she commences her ambassador status by appearing in the House’s Spring 2024 ad campaign.

“I am thrilled to join Balenciaga as a brand ambassador,” Yeoh said in a statement released by the brand on November 9. “For me, fashion is a form of art. It’s not just about a dress but about self-expression, how you feel in the dress, and the values you embody wearing it; it is a way to communicate my work and who I am to the world. Wearing Balenciaga makes me value the artistry and craftsmanship behind every piece. The brand embodies a sense of originality and relevance while always remaining true to its heritage as a couture atelier. It is an honor to partner with Balenciaga.”

Ultimately Yeoh’s imprimatur is yet another sign that Demna’s work finds a kinship with anyone who venerates the beauty of handcraft or the heritage of a Paris-based brand. Following the debut of the Winter 2023 collection, Demna indicated that his dedication to this priority would only continue. “The idea was [to] go to square one, which is making clothes and making that the focus,” he said. “Over the last couple of months, it’s felt like this is exactly what I was meant to do.”

Fashion has become a kind of entertainment, but often that part overshadows the essence of it, which lays in shapes and volumes, silhouettes, the way we create relationships between body and fabric, the way we make shoulder lines and armholes, the way clothes have an ability to change us…

DEMNA, CREATIVE DIRECTOR, BALENCIAGA


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