Photography Mitchell Sams

Balenciaga AW20 offers a dark glimpse into the apocalypse

In an inky black auditorium at the centre of a maze of tunnels Demna's models splashed and stomped through a half-floating, half-sunken world.

by Felix Petty
|
02 March 2020, 10:18am

Photography Mitchell Sams

The Balenciaga show this season, at Cité du Cinéma on the outskirts of Paris, in Saint-Denis plunged guests into darkness upon their entrance, navigating through a series of tunnels into the large auditorium. It was spatially disorientating -- a reflective surface covering the floor, guests unable to tell where was up and down, darkness mirroring darkness, an endless and bottomless black pit.

1583142677329-AW20C-Balenciaga-001

The ceiling illuminated, with digital renderings of clouds swirling on the LED screens overhead, accompanied by thumping industrial bass music. Underneath the light, the bottomless black pit revealed itself to be a watery abyss. It was hard to not read it as a metaphor for the climate crisis, the setting so wildly post-apocalyptic, so aggressive and dark. It felt like the world had been turned upside down.

1583142688836-AW20C-Balenciaga-017

When the clothes arrived, they reflected the setting -- just as aggressive, just as dark. The opening looks of this epic show were informed by cultish dressing. All black woollens and velvets, maxi dresses, flowing capes, hoods evolving out of coats, long, ominous, billowing silhouettes.

1583142697241-AW20C-Balenciaga-026

"Clerical garb and courtly robes are reimagined as casual wear," the notes suggested, "Mixing business with pleasure, hardcore aesthetics with classical traditions." There were giant pagoda shoulders, spiked rubber coats and dramatic elongated necklines, five toed shoes in collaboration with Vibram. Neoprene, nylon and motocross gear were reimagined as practical building blocks for this new world. “New gothic dressing” the notes said; or The Sisters of Mercy in wellies with iPhone charger accessories, stomping through this dark, submerged world.

1583142711764-AW20C-Balenciaga-031

The black, Demna explained, was a tribute to Cristobal Balenciaga. It was the Basque designer’s favourite colour. Demna reimagined Balenciaga’s silhouettes as modern items of casual luxury -- reducing them to shape or idea and rebuilding them into new forms. It was, he said, a return to his own roots, the love of making clothes, the poetry of self-expression.

1583142724324-AW20C-Balenciaga-043

Against this simplicity -- striking silhouettes, black on black, aggression and beauty -- the set continued to swirl. It was a dramatic light show of rolling thunderous clouds and swarms of birds. It felt epic. By the time the clouds had rolled back, and the flames burnt out, the space was left in total darkness. No finale, but an incredible fashion moment.

1583142779841-AW20C-Balenciaga-067
1583142787376-AW20C-Balenciaga-076
1583142796772-AW20C-Balenciaga-087
1583142803641-AW20C-Balenciaga-096
1583142811751-AW20C-Balenciaga-099
1583142872488-AW20C-Balenciaga-120
1583142884072-AW20C-Balenciaga-132
1583142891783-AW20C-Balenciaga-153
1583142899630-AW20C-Balenciaga-177
1583142908069-AW20C-Balenciaga-210
1583143044522-AW20C-Balenciaga-234
1583143052906-AW20C-Balenciaga-242
1583143063321-AW20C-Balenciaga-268
1583143071954-AW20C-Balenciaga-292

Credits


Photography Mitchell Sams

Tagged:
Balenciaga
Paris Fashion Week
PFW
demna gvasalia
aw20