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Balenciaga SS20 - Demna Gvasalia confronted constructs of power in everyday life

With aspects of exaggerated volumes, facial prosthetics and Hello Kitty bags

Balenciaga SS20 -  Demna Gvasalia confronted constructs of power in everyday life  With aspects of exaggerated volumes, facial prosthetics and Hello Kitty bags

For the past few seasons, designer Demna Gvasalia has earned himself the title as one of the kings of fashion by creating collections and shows that provoke the standards of everyday fashion as we know it by proposing futuristic silhouettes and proportions that are just as mythical as they are practical. Yesterday afternoon, the BALENCIAGA creative director debuted his first collection since his departure from Vetements with a show that centred around the theme of “dressing for work: power dressing, no matter what one does as a job.” A theme that coincidentally was seen in similar context at Alessandro Michele’s latest Gucci show, as he explored the politics of biopower and biopolitics. 

However when one thinks of the concept of power in the context of Europe, the European Union has become sort of a cold crooked embodiment of such and for a hint of satire, Demna worked alongside artist Niklas Bildsten Zaar to create a circular arena show space resemblant of the one we associate with EU parliament, splashed entirely with carpets and chairs in a shade of blue similar to that of the EU Flag. “ I wanted to create a clean, new space in the shape of an arena with a minimal and futuristic aesthetic and with the screen blue colour as a symbol of something new, ” Gvasalia explained. Work was also done with scientist Sissel Tolaas to create and pump scents into the room that related to power, from this she created antiseptic, blood, money and petrol which were released from behind the curtains. 

In this space , the designer presented a collection of “fashion uniforms” that were anything but uniformed — unless speaking in the context of Balenciaga house codes. The lineup began with a series of simple black suit looks with a logo similar in design to the one of MasterCard on their breast pockets. Soon after came a series of dresses inspired by the attire of female politicians during their campaign process, yet these were given wider shoulders and paired with boxier boots. Following this, there were trench coats, silks, plisse, denim printed silk and puffer jackets with shoulders so big it seemed like a homage to the instagram account @itsmaysmemes.  

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Each look from the collection created singular personalities just as real as the people who wore them. Instead of a cast filled with models,  Gvasalia casted a lineup of working people from several industries: “Look 1 , Needa Brady, an architect...Look 19,  Georgie Somerville, A high school students…Look 62, Daniel Birkner, A bike messenger, “ were some of the professions listed in the press release. 

Yet although these people  all had their daily lives, each one’s character was amplified by the designer to impose the constructs of power, almost like the concept of real people, but in 3D. Some carried briefcases, some clutched cellphones, a few held Hello Kitty bags and one guy even held a bouquet of random blue flowers. The designer also played with power in regards to beauty constructs by adding facial prosthetics to a few of his looks, an office worker had her cheekbones sunken in, an engineer had her lips inflated, another wore exaggerated Maleficent-like sharp cheekbones — all similar in design to showcase emphasized versions of the glorified beauty standards platforms like instagram have created today. 

Gvasalia’s most evident tribute to power however, was his use of volume, an aspect that has always been apart of the Balenciaga DNA. The designer created exaggerated proportions in the shoulders of silks gowns, a fur coat and oversized bombers, but the icing on the cake was the series of evening gowns made huge by the removable crinolines which sat under them as they bounced around the blue velvet carpets. These were made in reference to the heritage of the house during the times where Cristobal Balenciaga created gowns that were inspired by old Spanish paintings.  

Although the collection was an ode to exaggerated workwear, the designer did not abandon his renown love for streetwear.  The TYREX — A new sneaker , his signature thigh high boots, velvet thigh high dresses and other aspects were enough to feed that aspect of his fanbase. When asked about the end of streetwear, the designer said that it would be hard to say goodbye to streetwear because its no longer a trend, but explained the it has now become the base of the fashion industry.  In his time Cristobal Balenciaga was looked up to and considered a couture genius by many of his peers including Christian Dior and Coco Chanel. Demna Gvasalia however, may not necessarily be the king of couture, but he surely sits on a level of his own as a visionary designer .