The Fall/Winter 2018 season runways – and to be frank, quite a few before it – have been chock full of the promotion of social-driven movements. Unsurprisingly, when high fashion brands – you know, the purveyors of $600+ t-shirts and $5,000 dresses – put forth philanthropic or activism-inspired messages without any tangible plans to give back, which has been the case quite frequently, the result tends to feel, well, icky, for lack of better words. Balenciaga, it seems, wanted to avoid any negative connotations this season.
The Demna Gvasalia-helmed house, which is routinely the talk of the show circuit each season, has graduated beyond collaboration-over-loaded collections and platform crocs (for the time being, at least) and instead, is looking to a cause. Where DHL logos once were, are World Food Programme insignias for Fall/Winter 2018.
Other garments on the brand's runway bore a phone number, +33156528799, which turns out to be Balenciaga’s “new hotline.” Call the number and you can answer a 20-question survey, inquiring about your age, primary language, height, and shoe size, as well as your favorite form of transportation, type of music, season, taste (your options are: Bitter, Salty, Sour, Sweet, or Umami), and so on.
A way for Balenciaga to better understand its customers? Maybe. Considering that the message is ends with the following note: "Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. All data will be erased now," I, for one, am guessing this is more interactive experience than fact gathering mission. If we have learned anything over the past several years, it is that "experiences" are everything to the modern-day consumer.
But back to the World Food Programme. Underneath some of the most heavily layered looks were hoodies that bear the humanitarian organization’s logo, along with a lead in that reads, “Balenciaga Supports.” According to The Cut’s fashion critic Cathy Horyn, Balenciaga’s support actually consists of cold hard cash. “Balenciaga says it’s given 250,000 euros to the World Food Programme, and will donate 10 percent from every fall 2018 item sold,” Horyn tweeted on Sunday.
The Paris-based brand confirmed the partnership, stating: “For the Fall/Winter '18 collection, Balenciaga partnered with the World Food Programme to support its mission of ending hunger by 2030. Balenciaga aims to engage customers around important issues like global hunger and the role that nourishing food plays in building strong communities. This partnership is a step towards making fashion useful beyond its practical purposes while supporting good causes with our products whenever possible.”
Specifically, the World Food Programme x Balenciaga collab means that “from August 25, 2018, until February 1, 2019, Balenciaga will donate 10 percent of the sale price of each WFP-branded product sold in all Balenciaga stores and online as well as 10 percent of the suggested retail price via interested business partners carrying these products worldwide. In addition to this, Balenciaga has already donated US$250,000 to support WFP in its mission to save lives and change lives around the world.”
While fashion has been incessantly buzzing about and questioning the ability of runway looks to affect real change, awareness has often been the most immediate – and only – result. A brand putting its money where its … hoodie … is, is something of a refreshing new take. And if every brand is trying to one-up another with PR ploys and Instagram attention-seeking tactics (i.e., puppies for Tod's, severed heads at Gucci, popcorn flooring for Calvin), why not really make it worth someone's while?