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Balenciaga just turned upside down the traditional fashion show

With a red carpet that was actually a show and special episode of The Simpsons

Balenciaga just turned upside down the traditional fashion show With a red carpet that was actually a show and special episode of The Simpsons
Imitation of Christ FW21
Naomi Campbell
Cardi B & Offset
Juergen Teller
Elliot Page
Lewis Hamilton
Isabelle Huppert
Imitation of Christ FW21
Imitation of Christ FW21
Imitation of Christ FW21
Imitation of Christ FW21
Imitation of Christ FW21
Imitation of Christ FW21

Last Saturday, Balenciaga stole all the spotlight from the other brands of Paris Fashion Week by organizing an unterminal show consisting of a red carpet in which the guests and the stars themselves become the models entering the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris to see a special episode of the Simpsons lasting ten minutes that brought on the catwalk of all the characters of Matt Groening together with Anna Wintour,  Demna Gvasalia and her husband, Kanye, Kim and Justin Bieber, among others. The success of the show on social media was enormous and, as Demna himself told the press, the idea «was not about fashion» but about the concept behind it. Parodies and references aside, the idea was to overturn the classic dynamics of the show and create a short circuit between those who look in who is watched, between participants and models (something that Francesco Risso, in other forms, had done by Marni here in Milan) and the red carpet of arrival in the show itself, according to the mode of ironic distortion of the axioms and cultural icons that Demna has staged practically from the first instant of its tenure. Above all, the show played on the idea of entertainment, perhaps reflecting on the end of celebrity culture – but something was missing.

Naomi Campbell
Cardi B & Offset
Isabelle Huppert
Lewis Hamilton
Juergen Teller
Elliot Page

The shows to which Gvasalia has accustomed us until just before the lockdown had a huge entertainment value: it was precisely their media resonance that made Balenciaga an iconic brand for a new generation of consumers. To make this offer successful has always been the concept, the idea of a wardrobe for dystopia, of a meta-cultural merch that was not afraid to represent with fashion the paradoxes of society with a light veil of humor, using politically and culturally connoted images: the collection in which he remade the Bernie Sanders logo, or when he rebuilt the European Parliament by dressing the models like grotesque bureaucrats, or even when he flooded the catwalk of the show sinking the coveted first row. And precisely for this reason the idea of a fashion show that was the same red carpet, a concept already seen this year for Angus Chiang's FW21 but which seems to be replicated step by step from the FW01 presentation of Imitation of Christ twenty years ago as @hftgroup wrote, is fun in itself, but at the same time it is devoid of real bite. 

Imitation of Christ FW21
Imitation of Christ FW21
Imitation of Christ FW21
Imitation of Christ FW21
Imitation of Christ FW21
Imitation of Christ FW21
Imitation of Christ FW21

It is true that in the post-pandemic world entertainment has a new importance even in a period of extreme cultural fragmentation that has seen the sunset of the classic movie stars.  And given his latest works with Kanye West, with the creative direction of Donda and with that kim Kardashian dress at the Met Gala; given also his very recent collaboration with Fortnite, one could perhaps say that the show was a reiteration on the idea that now, in the public sphere, there are no more real divisions of areas and roles, that the entropy of a system that sees singers become designers, designer directors, model actors, model actors and so on is rising to more chaotic levels than ever before. And that's okay too – but the reflection remains on a fairly self-referential level and does not touch on the real hot topics of the contemporary world that we all know Demna knows how to handle so well. At most, perhaps, one could read the involuntary admission that fashion now lives of these red carpet moments, in the momentary flashes of paparazzi cameras, in the few seconds it takes to put a like on an Instagram post and scroll over – but this reasoning does not go much to the advantage of fashion itself.

If by bringing to the catwalk themes such as the European Union, the cultural evolution of the former Soviet countries and the culture of consumption, Demna gave Balenciaga a depth of true meaning, the vague social commentary of the show did not have the same weight. In their reviews, both BoF and Vogue mention the laughter that animated the theater at the end of the show. («Did it make you laugh?» asked Demna when it was over) but in addition to the fun experience of those who were present there was not really a topic or a theme at stake – even the leather Crocs that drove everyone crazy were a Balenciag-ata version of the New Rock, shoes that have been around since the 80s. Commenting ex-post with Vogue Demna spoke only of the entertainment value of the show: «It’s more like a music or movie business, in the way you can convey things», phrase that echoes that interview with WWD, in February 2019, in which he said: «If I wasn’t making clothes, I’d probably be making movies». And the entertainment was indeed all there, especially for those present, but it didn't really go beyond laughter and applause at the theater.