Glorious gloop

Kanye West opened for Balenciaga in a muddy pit
By Bailey Slater | Fashion | 3 October 2022

“I hate boxes and I hate labels and I hate being labelled and placed in a box,” muses Demna in the notes for Balenciaga’s latest show. He decries the ways the world – especially on the internet – feels compelled to name and define ‘the new’ in order to feel safe, as if design needs to be understood in order to impact. 

How ironic, then, that his latest collection is a potent cocktail of virality, led by revered icon Kanye West and set in a potently unglamorous hill of sopping wet mud (a collaboration with Santiago Serra based on his 2005 installation ‘House of Mud’), where images of the designer’s vast reimagining of label staples will immediately find themselves in group chats and online forums, its chunky silhouettes and gloomy settings to be questioned and revered in equal measure.

Out of the snow globe and into muddy anarchy, utilitarian army gear took an IV dose of steroids, plastered with pockets and straps stretching as far as the eye can see. Trench foot abounded in the slippy terrain, dousing resplendent rhinestoned clogs in a murky gloop of soil. Demna’s models were appropriately hard-faced for the occasion, eyebrows and lips covered in Hot Topic-esque studs. Their jaws were tightly wound, desperately gripping glittering mouthguards, a literal allusion to the designer’s refusal to quantify this work with reason or explanation. 

Despite the sparse lighting, things were far from doom and gloom. In a twist of Anya Hindmarch campness, foily crisp packets turned themselves into literal grab-bags. Then there were the colourful squiggle scarves, fishnet raver long sleeves and claw-gloved totes, the latter swallowing the arm whole in a swathe of smooth leather. One gown saw the label’s signature Cagole/City bag totally spliced open, grungy hardware, woven handles and various miniature zipped entities stretching over the body with plenty of rough and tough attitude. As angsty as it all seemed, Demna ultimately showed his penchant for the playful, those nudge-winks that brought him to prominence at Vetements were still bubbling away in a cauldron somewhere, waiting to strike when the time was right. We left muddy and happy. 

GALLERYCatwalk images from Balenciaga WOMENS-SPRING-SUMMER-23