Once Upon A Time In Hollywood: Balenciaga Pre-Fall 2024 Hits A Cultural Nerve

Under the distant Hollywood sign, Demna pens a piquant love letter to his (and our) fascination with the fame capital

Los Angeles is a dreamscape. A place where it never rains, people live in expansive ‘compounds’ instead of homes and paying $20 USD for a smoothie is all in a day’s work. For many, it was also the catalyst for a cultural awakening growing up, where the height of fashion was the Olsen twins, Rodeo Drive and The Simple Life.

Balenciaga Pre-Fall 2024 was a show for us.

In the City of Angels, Demna’s elite guest list sat perched in rows at Hancock Park, the Hollywood sign flanked in the distance between the palm trees. For onlookers, the zany goth-alien aesthetic of showgoers was starkly out of place with the sun-soaked afternoon, but turning Hollywood on its head was a theme.

Models looked straight out of a noughties tabloid, nonchalantly traipsing down the asphalt runway in activewear, velour tracksuits and distressed flannels while clasping grande coffee cups and chatting on phones.

Totes with rolled-up yoga mats poking out were a fun twist, but it was the leather totes rendered to mimic Erewhon brown paper bags that were a point of ingenious satire.

The referential nostalgia didn’t stop there. Thongs valiantly arching out of low-rise trousers, cheetah-print coats, shoes carried in hands, Pretty Woman-style thigh-high boots and ‘don’t look at me’ sunglasses all captured a grungey ideal that once permeated the city in lieu of the now-reticent celebrity set.

Demna‘s propensity for warping the mundane made for some humourous accessories, apropos of a distinct era of time that has teased its return. This season’s answer to the Fall 2022 garbage bag totes and Lays chip bag clutches were hotel slippers, mega-sized sneakers, acrylics sharpened to a comical point and blown-up Ugg boots in flat and stilettoed silhouettes.

After the show, the Georgian-born creative director remarked that Los Angeles is his “favourite city in the world”, but he’s not blind to its shortcomings.

“Welcome hungry souls to the realm of hungry stomachs,” read some of the lyrics to the soundtrack, produced by Demna’s partner, BFRND. A stab at the vast duality of the county, where a hyper-fixation on wellness culture shares a fence with a growing housing crisis—the city saw an astounding 14 percent increase in its unsheltered population this year.

Pre-Fall 2024 was equal parts commentary and love letter to a golden era of celebrity culture.

But the message wasn’t one of guilt or sanctimonious finger-pointing. Instead, he holds a fun-house mirror to the people, himself included, critiquing his fascination with Hollywood while reviving some of its perplexing iconography. Taking cues, revellers cheered on from the front row, knowing it’s uncool not to laugh at yourself—or perhaps they missed the point entirely.

Like many of us, Hollywood was a gateway to the world for Demna growing up, and as vapid as we may view the fame machine, there’s no denying its profound impact on its outsiders.

Closing looks featured the kind of opulent eveningwear that the house’s founder was revered for. Structured, draped, leather and velvet, it was a dramatic and visually striking set of gowns and outerwear. No statements, per se, just glorious design.

As always, we’re left with the lingering feeling that not everyone is quite in on Demna’s joke. At least the coffee cups were reusable—a very LA touch.