October 3rd, 2021, 8 p.m.
“Over the shoulder, please!” begs a desperate photographer as one A-List celebrity after another strolls down a velvet red carpet outside of the Théâtre du Châtelet, spotlights glaring from above.
This image comes not from the latest awards show or movie premiere, but an impromptu fashion show that made Balenciaga and designer Demna Gvasalia the hottest topic of a busy Paris Fashion Week.
Paris Fashion week this October was full of memorable moments exposing the good, the bad, and the ugly of the industry. Rick Owens earned praise for a new sandal morph of his now-iconic Kiss platform heels and Loewe’s abstract metallic forms were a fan favorite, while a climate activist stormed down the runway of the Louis Vuitton show holding a sign reading “Overconsumption = Extinction”, sparking yet another controversy for the house and starting conversations about climate change at fashion week.
None received quite as much attention as Balenciaga’s clever, comedic Summer 2022 show that included a red carpet, show stopping celebrity appearances, and yet another unlikely ironic collaboration for the brand. This time teaming up with none other than The Simpsons–yes, the cartoon TV show. Designer Demna Gvasalia was quoted saying “Well, we needed something fun to happen,” and that’s exactly what he brought to life.
Staged outside one of the most important theaters in Paris, the show itself was beautifully awkward, disguised within a red carpet event featuring some of the top names in pop culture like Offset, photographer Juergen Teller, Naomi Campbell, Elliott Page, Lewis Hamilton, and more. The celebrities, as well as official Balenciaga models, wandered across the red carpet while passers by gathered around from the street. After posing for their photo-op, they strolled into the theater where they joined the regular audience to watch the rest of the red carpet on the big screen. The looks were on brand for Balenciaga, featuring everything from extremely oversized silhouettes to elegant dresses that highlighted the designer’s versatility.
After Gvasalia himself posed for the final shot in an all black hoodie and sweatpants with a black mask, the models, Balenciaga employees, celebrities, and audience members mingled together and settled into their seats inside the theater for the second half of the show, an exclusive short screening of a new episode of The Simpsons in which Gvasalia invited characters from the show to walk the runway for Balenciaga. The episode had the audience in hysterical laughter, and offered a much-needed humorous break from the rush of fashion week.
Balenciaga has been the center of attention for fashion fans this year, making headlines in July for Gvasalia’s first couture show. It solidified his position among the best designers the industry has to offer. Gvasalia also was the driving force behind the art direction and design of Kanye West’s latest long-awaited album “Donda”, staging the live performance art, merchandise designs, and publicity stunts that made Donda the most talked about album in recent memory.
The publicity continued with Kim Karashian’s anonymous MET Gala look, an all black veiled dress that commented on celebrity culture. Just weeks before this red carpet event, Balenciaga strangely opted to collaborate with the video game Fortnite, placing an eye-catching ad in Times Square and releasing a full capsule collection adorned with ironic Fortnite X Balenciaga logomania. This Spring 2022 show was the perfect icing on the cake for an eventful past few months for the brand, and fans still can’t get enough of it.
Demna Gvasalia may be a new name for some, but this is far from his first rodeo. Having co- founded the brand “Vetements” in 2014, he became known for his humorous takes on capitalism and consumer culture, even staging shows inside of Mcdonald’s and selling t-shirts with Spongebob printed on the chest for a retail price of over $500. Beyond the silly references and collaborations, though, Demna is a truly talented designer. Ever since he joined Balenciaga in late 2015, he has only continued to expand on his criticisms of fashion and capitalism, constantly questioning the fundamentals of the very industry that he has climbed to the top of.
Demna’s Balenciaga may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s hard to deny his creative genius. The Spring 2022 show was unconventional to say the least, and will go down in history for challenging the way clothing can be shown. From Paris to Springfield, everyone has their eyes on Balenciaga, and the world can’t wait to see what’s coming next.