For its Spring/Summer 2022, Balenciaga redefines traditional ideals of a fashion show; this time premiering its newest collection with a red carpet and an episode of The Simpsons.
Balenciaga strikes again! Once more delving beyond convention and expectation, its Spring/Summer 2022 Fashion Show was written for the runway history books. Upon the return to live audiences and post-pandemic awakening, the shows of the last month’s big four Fashion Weeks left us with a lot to think about. But none so much as the luxury Spanish House, currently based in France.
From digital presentations to the much-missed traditional runway, SS22 brought a familiar warmth like a hug from an old friend. Naturally, most designers were reminiscing about life before the pandemic in their hopes of going forward and enjoying life again. And the shows were emotive, beautiful and nostalgic.
But Creative Director Denma Gvasalia took a slightly different angle. Balenciaga did not ignore but rather seamlessly transitioned away from the pandemic-induced fashion hiatus. There was no rainy-day nostalgia, nor a “forget” or “move on” attitude. In fact, for the first time in a long time the pandemic, pre-, during or post-, wasn’t even on my mind.
Spring/Summer 22 in Paris
Staged in Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet, this season brought things I didn’t even know I wanted from a fashion show. With a red carpet for guests, models and celebs alike, the paparazzi outside flashed at the entrants to the show, making it feel like a royal affair.
And like that wasn’t enough, no warning of arriving celebrities startled onlookers. From Cardi B and Offset to Elliot Page and even Isabelle Huppert, guests arrived covered in Balenciaga couture. Even the Fashion Queen herself, Ms Anna Wintour, was in attendance. Guests posed on the red carpet for paparazzi photos like any other red carpet event before making their way inside.
But surprises kept coming as celebrities like Cardi B posed among the Balenciaga models as part of the collection. Others like Lewis Hamilton, Dev Hynes, and Ella Imhoff were also included as models in the line-up. However, once inside guests watched the red carpet action continue and quickly discovered that they had all unknowingly participated in the fashion show, walking the red carpet runway themselves.
Springfield in Paris
Then the show really began. Taking their seats, it turned out that guests were at an undisclosed screening. And none would have guessed that they were all dressed up to watch none other than The Simpsons. Played live to the unsuspecting audience, reactions were filled with astonishment.
The episode was about 10 minutes. In true Simpsons logic, it starts with Homer wanting to buy Marge a gift to all of Springfield taking on Paris and the Balenciaga runway. And though the short, my mind was racing with excitement, trying to both process and enjoy the show. It was full of classic Simpsons moments. Like Bart mooning the front-rowers, only for them to moon back. And a french Chef filling Balenciaga gift “Swag Bags” with French Onion Soup. Or one of the Bouvier twin sisters flicking cigarette ash onto an onlooker, burning her outfit – and improving it.
The dream collab was simple yet beautifully crafted. And it was all very meta, with Simpsons characters taking part in the show, only shortly before guests viewing realised that they themselves were the show. Plus the animated outfits were based on real Balenciaga designs featured in past shows and campaigns.
And beyond the tv characters, the episode featured Gvasalia himself, and celebrities like Justin Bieber, Kanye, Kim K and of course Anna Wintour. The premiere played live was equal parts Simpson-esque as it was classic Balenciaga. It was jovial and silly and sophisticated and captivating.
After being seen live and then painted all across Instagram, there was barely any time to think. But following months of introspection, this surprise was refreshing, to say the least. Feeling gobsmacked at how such simple ideas had seemingly never before been done, Demna Gvasalia’s genius shone bright, outdoing and transforming expectations.
Undoubtedly, most of fashion month seemed to be about denouncing the pandemic and advocating for the return to going out. Yet while the post-pandemic energy and sentiment was felt by all, Gvasalia brought back a feeling we hadn’t overly felt in fashion for some time: joy.
And the artistic creative direction raised some important questions. Like what is the value of a fashion show? What is its purpose? And in a d’oh epiphany of my own, it made me realise that entertainment, enjoyment and happiness are key parts of fashion so often overlooked.
“I’ve wanted to do a premiere concept where the guests would be the show for many seasons… I hoped it would make people smile.”
Notably, just like Kim K’s met gala look, the nearly all-black collection was met with some criticism. Dubbed by many as a turn away from the older sophisticated Balenciaga once known, the collection was definitely different. But the pieces still spelled brand signature in their oversized looks and beading details. And known for its uncompromising standards, the theme definitely leaned into class and simplicity. The fashion house would not have expelled such surprise and excitement with over-done or over-the-top typical pieces.
But more than that, the show proved a point we didn’t even know we’d long been fighting against in fashion. That it’s not merely clothing and it’s not all about stunning models, or jaw-dropping pieces. Fashion is culture. It’s life, it’s joy and it’s people. So while beauty may be pain, we’re reminded that fashion should bring pleasure.
Ultimately, while I could only have dreamed of being there myself, we’re sure the Balenciaga SS22 show will spark industry reflection and fashion show innovation. And it’s clear that the San Sebastián fashion house brought out the beautiful side of fashion that had been missed long before the pandemic. A side where one show in Paris can make people all around the world smile.
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