Balenciaga’s apocalyptic set of a white rotund, where models walked against fierce winds and snow, the harshest of elements, profoundly reflected the world we are currently living in.
Creative director Demna had considered cancelling Balenciaga’s AW22 presentation, questioning the usefulness of fashion in times of war and distress. The answer to forge ahead came when he realised how many people’s livelihoods depend on Balenciaga as well as his own sacrifices to war. Demna’s family were refugees who fled Georgia in the nineties, under similar circumstances of a Russian invation.
Forever a refugee
Demna studied in the Ukraine, and said he already sacrificed too much: “I became a forever refugee. Forever, because that’s something that stays with you,” he wrote in the accompanying show notes. “In a time like this fashion loses its relevance, fashion week becomes an absurdity. I realised cancelling this show would mean giving in, surrendering to the evil.”
A poem by a Ukranian poet was read by Demna opening the show. There was no translation. On the seats of guests, who were sheltered from the ‘storm' by glass, lay copies of yellow and blue Ukranian flags.
The vision of models carrying giant trash bags, pushing against the wind, reminds of the plight of a refugee’s journey to safety and of always being on the move. The long lines of vehicles at the Polish border are a stark reminder.
Still, this was a fashion show, and the bag wasn’t plastic, but leather. Some garments, like outerwear, were made without buttons or zips, but as pullovers, so that they could easily be reduced into a pocket or bag in case of escape. One model wore nothing but sneakers and underwear, shouldered in fabric, as if time doesn’t wait for anyone, certainly not in times of war. The window to escape to something better is but a fleeting moment.
Another model was wrapped in Balenciaga logo packing tape, as was Kim Kardashian on the front row, Demna’s current muse and friend. Pointy-toed wide knee boots were ubiquitous, for both men and women, as were the futurist wrap around sunglasses, the only protection against the elements.
On a visit to the mountains last Christmas, Demna said he encountered no snow. This show was as much about the world’s plight for climate control as it was to end war. “This show needs no explanation,” Demna wrote. “It is a dedication to fearlessness, to resistance, and to the victory of love and peace.”