At the Balenciaga spring 2022 show, everything isn’t quite what it seems. At first glance, it appears that Demna Gvasalia has recreated the traditional fashion show—complete with a black-clad audience clutching the customary cellphone—but as the models appeared, you realise that all of them has been given the face of Eliza Douglas, muse of the House since Gvasalia took over.
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Titled Balenciaga Clones, the show was Gvasalia’s commentary on identity, originality, counterfeit culture (picking up where Alessandro Michele left off for Gucci Aria), and airbrushed perfection. The face-swapping trick was done with deepfake technology—making Gvasalia the first to transplant this disturbing Internet phenomenon onto the runway. The first look out was black on black on black, the model’s face completely shrouded underneath a veil. Gvasalia didn’t just clone Douglas; as its title suggests, the show was a repetition, reiteration and reinforcement of everything Gvasalia has been doing at Balenciaga since his arrival.
In a tight edit of 44 looks, Gvasalia retraced his Balenciaga journey so far. Tailoring and streetwear were pushed to exaggerated extremes. There were explorations of silhouette and traces of mid-century couture—both legacies of Cristobal Balenciaga, but updated for the social media age. Suits were big and boxy, with sloping, supersized shoulders. His signature billowing dresses came pleated and printed. There were puffer jackets with sculpted necklines—their collars blown up and standing away from the face. There were tracksuits, logo-ed denim, babushka-headscarves, futuristic eyewear, Balenciaga-branded shopping bags and market totes. Gvasalia even revisited his Internet-breaking Crocs collaboration.
He also continued the Hacking Project that Alessandro Michele started over at Gucci, in which both brands plumbed each other’s codes to create new kinds of hybrids-slash-counterfeits. This time around, Gvasalia has taken classic Gucci bag shapes with their recognisable monogram and green-red webbing, and swapped out the GGs with BBs. Taking the subversion one step further, he even graffitied some of them with the slogan “This Is Not a Guccy Bag”. Other hacks riffed on The Simpsons—dressed head-to-toe in Balenciaga, of course—and the logo of Bebe, that mall favourite of noughties teen girls everywhere. Gvasalia might not have broken new design ground with this collection, but his bombastic finale look of a sculptural red velvet gown hints at the exciting possibilities of his debut haute couture collection next month.