Housed in a glass rotunda like a simulation of a giant snow globe, the production had been planned as one of Demna’s meta-immersive confrontations with climate change, projected into a not-too-distant time when snow doesn’t will not exist, and will become a marvel. only “experienced” through virtual reality. “I went to the mountains last Christmas, and there was no snow,” he said.
But the staging: models moving forward, bent against the snow and the wind, some carrying heavy shopping bags, took on a whole new meaning in the harrowing context of the current reality. Behind the scenes, Demna was clear that the doomsday scenario had synced with the sense of helpless exposure to the elements he had gone through during his escape, walking on foot on a Georgian mountain as a child. The section where the young men were only wrapped in towels and underwear, in particular.
Even if the news hadn’t overwhelmed this fashion event, Demna’s Balenciaga shows of late have always had undercurrents of prophetic warning within them. There was the one he organized as a fictitious European Union parliament summit. A resolved question about its diplomatic usefulness, in retrospect. His latest terrifying physical spectacle, on the brink of the pandemic in March 2020, confronted audiences with scorching skies and an ominous oily lake lapping at their feet – with his sinister black-clad male avatars of power of business and religion dominating the scene.
All of these anxieties – environmental, geopolitical, fear of the dark forces that are really in control – have come to fruition. Where does that leave fashion? Demna’s tribe of Balenciaga survivors continued, despite everything, to stomp their stilettos and thigh-high boots in headwinds blowing snow into the future.
Stoic elegance, you might say. Asymmetrical black dresses blowing voluminously in the arctic wind. Oversized hybrids of hoodie and padded outerwear; leather jackets that happen to be made from Balenciaga’s new mycelium-based imitation leather alternative. Tote bags matched with boots. And at the end, two looks, one a yellow tracksuit, the other a blue dress with a long, long train in the shape of a flag: the two essential colors of the democratic and independent nation of Ukraine.