Balenciaga’s Miami Flagship Is Luxuriously Undone
Last week, as hurricane Nicole threatened the Floridian coast, I reluctantly boarded a flight to Miami to preview Balenciaga’s new two-story, 8,487 square-foot Design District flagship—their largest in North America. I landed safely in the Sunshine State, yet I couldn’t help noting the irony of a hurricane potentially disrupting an event held by a brand that references climate catastrophes on the catwalk. In fact, wind-battered palm trees and torrential rain were not an obstacle to the opening, but a complementary backdrop to Balenciaga’s take on raw architecture. Designed in conjunction with Sub, the Berlin-based studio behind the house’s industrial storefronts and sublime runway activations, the boutique boasts a glass and chrome facade that marries the storefront with the aesthetic of the surrounding Paradise Plaza. But beyond the threshold, Balenciaga flips the idea of a luxury flagship on its head.
Exposed ceilings, crumbling concrete bricks, and what appear to be the remnants of construction-site graffiti are juxtaposed with expertly merchandised glass shelving lined with the brand’s latest offerings, including a traffic-cone-orange Miami-exclusive colorway of their it-bag: Le Cagole. Downstairs, Art Deco-inspired tiles are aged as if they were transferred from a nearby residence, while on the upper level, black enamel flooring seeps into pale carpeting as if it were a toxic oil spill frozen in time. Even the stairwell appears disheveled thanks to the inclusion of off-white tiles finished with synthesized residue not unlike the grime found on the walls of raucous bathhouses. All of these elements create the illusion of a historic construction, yet when paired with digital accents—including a color-changing light box affixed to the ceiling timed to the sun’s position in the sky—the space becomes eerily liminal, as if it were a netherworld between the physical past, and our virtual future.
After roaming the store, I try on a faux fur coat defaced with what looks like a spray painted image of Balenciaga’s trademark double B, as well as pair of their Square Knife pumps affixed with rhinestones and logos. I feel like the main character in a video game, rich and on-the-run, ready for a chaotic, luxurious future that may or may not exist.