No other show in Paris left such a vivid expression as Balenciaga. You still keep on thinking about this collection (which already means something…). The audience entered the darkened Balenciaga venue and suddenly realized that the first two rows were inundated with water. It was a chilly setting for Demna Gvasalia‘s procession of sinister characters, walking on a vast stretch of water beneath an apocalyptic, digital sky filled with fire, lightning and Hitchcockian birds. “It’s the blackest show I ever did,” the designer said. Gvasalia’s route is always freighted with social observation on the state of the world, power politics, dress codes, fetishism. His intense parade of priests and priestesses in long black robes, with their “religious purity, minimalism, austerity” arose from memories of the Orthodox church in Georgia, and looking at the Spanish Catholic origins of Cristóbal Balenciaga. “He made his first dresses from black velvet, for a Marquesa to wear to church,” Gvasalia concluded. “I had a lot of clerical wear in my research. I come from a country where the Orthodox religion has been so predominant,” he said. “I went to church to confess every Saturday. Back then, I remember looking at all these young priests and monks, wearing these long robes and thinking, ‘How beautiful.’ You see them around Europe with their beards, hair knotted back and backpacks. I don’t know, I find it quite hot – but that’s my fetish.” On closer inspection, they were wearing demonic red or black contact lenses; their faces brutally augmented with protheses. “Religious dress codes are all about hiding the body, about being ashamed – body and sex is the taboo. Whereas when you look into it, some of these people are the nastiest perverts”. Holding that thought – about constraint, rules and belonging to sects – set him off, designing neoprene suits with tiny compressed waists for women and black leather “Pantaboots” with padlocked “chastity belts” and a whole series of leather biker suits. This collection is in a way painful to look at, but that is its real power. On the other note, I think Demna is the only person in fashion who really pushes the topic of silhouette and form, creating some of the most transformative garments. I can’t wait for his debut haute couture show coming this July.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.