Balenciaga pushes the limits of reality with a 90s-inspired grunge collection
Not content with having captured international media attention with the presentation of its last collection through an episode of The Simpsons, which created buzz that transcended the bounds of the fashion industry, Balenciaga is once again exploring the potential of creating narratives that run parallel to reality with the presentation of its collection for Fall/Winter 2022. Entitled "The Lost Tape," the collection was revealed on Wednesday, December 8, via a short film directed by North American filmmaker Harmony Korine, known for the independent films Gummo and Spring Breakers. The collection is also the first that creative director Demna Gvasalia has signed simply as "Demna." According to a press release from the fashion house, the Georgian designer will refer to himself in this way from now on, in order to "separate his creative work from his private life."
A video cassette featuring the title and date of the presentation served as a teaser for the collection, perfectly summarizing the thread that runs through the new looks offered up by the Kering-owned luxury brand this season: a radical nostalgia for the 90s. The collection, which was presented to buyers and the press with a physical showroom in the house's ateliers on Paris' Rue des Sèvres on Wednesday, was revealed to the wider public through a video that channeled the aesthetic of this decade into a fictional runway show.
Everything, from the arrival of the show's guests, to its backstage and front-row commentary, was orchestrated by Korine in collaboration with Demna, all in order to create a runway that never happened – or perhaps it did. That's the idea that Balenciaga is playing with. Having announced the creation of a department dedicated to the metaverse at the start of this month, the house appears to be asking whether a runway show needs to correspond to conventional molds and channels for the public to consider that it really happened. Balenciaga has once again cast its loyal followers in the role of spectators, thereby questioning the way in which fashion is consumed in a world dominated by screens.
A total of 61 looks were brought together in the form of period-appropriate Polaroids, with Balenciaga betting everything on black in an almost completely monochrome offering with echoes of post-grunge. Rave-inspired pieces were among those that reflected a taste for leather, which was present in long flared skirts, loose jackets with structured shoulders, including one design with quilted details, and roomy biker pants, paired with XXL boots, which were also front and center when they took to the runway in the form of extra-long knee-high numbers or in waterproof versions designed to protect wearers from the rain. In line with the brand's ongoing commitment to sustainability, 89.6% of the fabrics used in this season's collection were certified sustainable, while some pieces were also labeled as recycled leather.
The exaggerated shoulders so characteristic of the Georgian designer's aesthetic were repeated in long, elegant woolen coats, as well as in the various suit jackets with delicately twisted sleeves, and in oversize double-breasted coats that appeared to be worn backwards, with the opening at the back. Rounding out these looks was a good handful of tailored trousers, as well as street-style pants and even several reinterpretations of the jogger.
In a more sophisticated register, Balenciaga offered asymmetric, draped dresses and flowing, fringed tunics with tone-on-tone logos, as well as slip dresses and tops in white and sky blue. Large volumes and couture details shone through in a long leather coat and an impressive, almost aristocratic, anorak, which culminated in a ribbon-shaped train that unfurled from a zip opening at the back. Denim was another central material in the collection, appearing in different shades and washes, in baggy jackets and low-rise jeans.
The responsibility for providing a splash of color was entrusted to a giant, neon green fur coat, topped off with a sweatshirt hood. A light white trench, long coats inspired by bathrobes, long-sleeved bodysuits, vests and short-sleeved t-shirts with small logos emblazoned at the chest closed the house's ready-to-wear offering, which was complemented by accessories such as chains with keys, pendants in the shape of a thimble, futuristic glasses and braided bags.
"I think this show is life-changing. It's completely on another level," commented model Naomi Campbell, one of the fictitious show's guests, who shared with the event's other VIPs, including Isabelle Huppert, Susanne Bartsch, Esther Cañadas, Cathy Horyn, Diane Pernet, and Renata Litvinova, the conviction that digital fashion is here to stay.
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