IN JOURNALISM, there is a word for a particularly sensational headline that is designed to get a reaction from readers. It’s called a screamer, and I’d argue that these days, it gets wheeled out on front pages and social media more often than not. But when thinking about Balenciaga’s Autumn 2024 show—and the internet’s reaction to it—‘screamer’ feels like an appropriate word to use. Demna is a master of many things, yet engineering moments of shock value is right up there with the designer’s most formidable talents. Even if you don’t follow fashion, you’ve likely seen a meme about the brand’s $1250 towel skirt or its comically large sneakers.
Balenciaga’s runway shows, however, tend to be where the most compelling screamers are born.
Staged on a boulevard in the glitzy Los Angeles enclave of Hancock Park to a backing track composed by BFRND, Balenciaga’s latest show wasn’t just held beneath the Hollywood sign—it was inspired by the city’s infamous fashion codes. It opened with an ‘activewear’ chapter before progressing into a series of ‘neo-grunge’ looks that Ben Affleck might’ve been photographed wearing when dodging the paparazzi in 2003. There were plenty of attention-grabbing moments here, both on and off the runway, from a teased collaboration with an cult L.A. health food chain to a few notable celebrity cameos.
Here, we round up five of the most talked-about moments from a very talked-about show.
1. Cole Sprouse wore the $1,250 towel skirt
When Balenciaga unveiled its terry cotton ‘towel skirt’, which was part of the brand’s Spring 2024 collection, it became an overnight meme. The sentiment of most memes revolved around the question of: who would purchase and wear such a thing? (Also, multiple commentators suggested heading to your local Target or Ikea if you really did want to get the look for less.)
Turns out, Cole Sprouse is the kind of person who would wear such a thing. From the front row, the child star turned Riverdale alum posed in the skirt, which was styled with a pair of beige chinos and an oversized leather jacket. While we remain convinced that anyone wearing this IRL would look like they’ve come from the aquatic centre (either that, or they’re trying to hide an unfortunate accident), Sprouse really committed. And that’s what wearing Balenciaga is all about.
2. Balenciaga’s comically big sneakers got even bigger
Everything is bigger in America, so it makes sense that Demna would take the brand’s already supersized sneakers and blow them up even more. According to Balanciaga, the 10XL sneaker “amplifies a sense of exaggeration in proportion”. We’ll say. The brand’s Triple S sneakers look like petite ballet slippers in comparison.
3. The Erewhon x Balenciaga collaboration dropped
With a history of witty collaborations with cult consumer franchises from Crocs to The Simpsons, it was a given that Balenciaga would find a very L.A. outfit to collaborate with on its very first L.A. show. And it can’t get more L.A. than Erewhon, the Los Angeles-based “upscale supermarket” with a cult following of celebrities. Hailey Bieber has her own smoothie on the menu, the ‘Hailey Bieber Strawberry Glaze’, which contains Erewhon sea moss, hyaluronic acid and vanilla collagen.
As part of the presentation, the supermarket created an exclusive Balenciaga smoothie for guests, which, due to the addition of activated charcoal, was black. The partnership extended beyond the refreshing beverage, though, with branded coffee cups and Erewhon shopping bags in paper and leather designed into the collection. Kim Kardashian carried one to and from the show. The question on everyone’s brain is: how much will those bags retail for when they arrive in store?
4. Cardi B walked the runway
But she didn’t so much walk as trot. Wrapped in a fluffy blue robe-style gown, the WAP rapper appeared to be in some great hurry—or maybe she was continuing the trend of Balenciaga models with obscure walks. Either way, she looked fly.
Cardi wasn’t the only big name on the runway. Dutch actress and supermodel Brigitte Nielsen, who is known for her role in the Rocky franchise, also made a cameo dressed in ninja-style all black with thigh-high boots.
5. Get ready for ‘neo-grunge’
Another L.A. trope that made its way into Balenciaga’s Autumn 2024 collection was paparazzi-repelling gear. Hooded jackets with built in scarves designed for shielding the wearer’s face appeared in multiple looks, as did figure-distorting sweatpants, hoodies and the brand’s signature speed dealer-style shades. We can imagine this is the kind of costume you might wear while doing an incognito Erewhon dash, or running between the car and Soul Cycle.
By look 43, the collection transitioned away from sweats to indulge in a bit of old Hollywood glamour—the final look, an ethereal, Cristóbal Balenciaga-inspired white gown with a ‘face shield’ was a highlight.
Demna may be a master of screamers, but his elegant looks always feel like the most enduring headlines.
See more of Esquire Australia’s style coverage here.