Divine and Deep-fakes: Balenciaga’s SS22

Broadcast on Instagram, Balenciaga’s SS22 show explored technology’s tightening grip on every aspect of our lives.

Credit: i-D

The show, titled Clones, appears to be a typical fashion show, with models walking the runway before a crowd of attendees. But here’s the kicker: the show didn’t actually happen. At least not in the normal, physical sense.

Reportedly, creative director Demna Gvasalia began investigating new, innovative ways to hold fashion shows before the pandemic even began. The result is the utilisation of a variety of digital post-production techniques, including planar tracking, rotoscoping, machine learning, 3D modelling, photogrammetry, and CG grafting. For the SS22 show, artist Eliza Douglas was the only model, her face superimposed onto other bodies walking the runway. The soundtrack, an AI bot reading the lyrics to ‘La Vie En Rose’, adds another layer of the uncanny.

The Clones show notes share Demna’s vision,

“We see our world through a filter—perfected, polished, conformed, photoshopped,

“Technology creates alternate realities and identities, a world of digital clones.”

Fact and Fiction

Opening with a veiled look that references mourning attire, each outfit is a mixture of styles and iconography. Crocs, Tesco-esque shopping bags, polka dots, screenshots of Balenciaga items on a desktop, florals, and The Simpsons all feature. These disparate elements are united by a nihilistic thread. Or perhaps a resignation to the unintelligible disarray that is modern pop culture.

The final look of the show was a red velvet fishtail gown, a reference to Divine’s iconic dress from John Waters’ Pink Flamingos. The character’s famous line, “Kill everyone now! Condone first-degree murder! Advocate cannibalism! Eat shit! Filth is my politics! Filth is my life!” feels fitting amid AI-generated nihilism.

Notable in this collection was the latest in the ongoing Balenciaga/Gucci crossover. Gucci’s monograms are tweaked here from GGs to BBs. And scrawled across a Gucci handbag is “This Is Not a Gucci Bag.” In a collection that questions the nature of fact and fiction, appropriation and nods to surrealist art are only natural.

Arguably, Demna’s SS22 is most successful when the label’s signature self-referential style is balanced by clean, classic silhouettes.

Take a look at some of the collection below:

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