Last season Balenciaga gave us a glimpse into an imagined view of what the world would look like post-climate change. For Summer 21 Pre-collection, Demna Gvsalia transported us back to the gritty reality of the present day. The collection was filmed in various iconic locations in Paris such as Rue de Rivoli and Pont Alexandre III, and other more enigmatic places like grungy back streets and a concrete tunnel.

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The video starts with models leaving their Parisian apartments in the dead of the night, and heading boldly into a deserted Paris. They walked with purpose, lip syncing to the words of ‘Sunglasses at Night’ (covered by BFRND), while wearing sunglasses. There was an abundance of black, and mix of tailored and street style codes. The models were cocooned in black coats, sometimes even bathrobes. There were references to the 80s with low slung dad jeans worn with sneakers (the new X-Pander), and oversized retro-inspired tracksuits, which were juxtaposed with jewel encrusted chandelier earrings. Sometimes sweatshirts were draped over model’s heads, sleeves draping over the shoulders, somewhat resembling the hooded cloak of a secret society. The trompe l’oeil technique was ever present, with silk and leather all printed to look indistinguishable from denim. 

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Behind the showmanship was an increased emphasis on sustainability this season. About 93.5 percent of the materials used in the collection were sustainable, or upcycled using craft and couture techniques. There was a jacket upcycled from old leather boots, a fur coat made of shoelaces, and a gown made from old basketball net chains (referencing Cristóbal Balenciaga’s iconic fisherman’s net dress). Most pieces are gender neutral so as to reduce the impact of production. 

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But the showstopper was the Balenciaga branded hotel slippers. These first appeared in the Autumn Winter 2020 collection, but were elevated with stiletto heels this season. The same treatment was also given to orthopedic sandals, once again showing that Balenciaga is somehow becoming an expert at producing beautiful ugly footwear. 

Animation by Beige Pill Productions