Fashion
  • Text Alex James Taylor
  • 8th June 2021

The show that never was

There was something slightly jarring about watching the Balenciaga Spring 22 show. In a pure white room, an audience in all black sat and watched – so far, pretty normal despite the colour coordination – however subtle aspects were askew, somewhat disconnected in an unsettling way. And then it clicks: this isn’t reality.

Titled Clones, Demna Gvasalia’s show wasn’t based in our dimension. It was an elaborate CGI production attended by a crowd who weren’t actually there. Every look was ‘modelled’ by artist Eliza Douglas, a Balenciaga regular, only not. Instead, she appeared as a series of digital clones – some deepfakes, others models with Eliza’s photogrammetry-captured and CG-scanned face digitally grafted on. The Eliza clones walked to an AI voiceover reciting the lyrics of Edith Piaf’s La Vie En Rose. The title of Piaf’s song translates as ‘life in pink’ or ‘life through rose-coloured glasses’ – now swap out those glasses for endless filters, streams and algorithms.

And clones infiltrated the (real) collection, too. Amongst Demna signatures – the floral pattern dresses, oversized tailoring and deconstructed puffers – Gucci bags and logos began to filter in as a riposte to Gucci’s recent ARIA show which first ‘hacked’ the two houses together. Classic Gucci bag silhouettes were claimed by Demna as was the Italian house’s iconic monogram – the GGs thrown out and replaced with BBs. (To see two completely contrasting designers exchange passes like this is truly terrific; the equivalent of seeing Ronaldo and Messi playing for the same team.)

Demna’s mischief-making in full flow, one hoodie featured a print of The Simpsons family wearing past season Balenciaga, a second season Crocs collaboration gave us platformed pool slides, and a large Gucci tote bag was graffitied with: “This is not a Gucci bag” in reference to surrealist artist René Magritte’s 1929 work The Treachery of Images – posing the question: when is a Gucci bag not a Gucci bag? When it’s being rocked down a Balenciaga runway, I guess.