balenciaga presented neo-tailoring for generation now
Demna Gvasalia presented a collection of new glamour for a new generation.
Photography Mitchell Sams
For the Balenciaga spring/summer 19 runway, the artist Jon Rafman collaborated with Demna Gvasalia to create an immersive video installation titled The Ride Never Ends. “We wanted to create an experience as if you were inside somebody’s digital brain,” Demna explained post-show. The LED-lined tunnel curved around the entire interior from floor to ceiling, creating an all-encompassing virtual dreamscape.
Working together on an ever evolving kaleidoscope of visuals and a club-ready soundtrack, the duo created a trippy, constantly changing, shake-up of the senses that left some on the the frow with motion sickness. “We wanted to transport people. Fashion shows should be moments that transport people, otherwise there’s no point. It was like working on a movie, getting people into another reality, so it stays as a memory.”
Beginning with the all-too-familiar panic of seeing an error screen, the journey continued through eerie ecosystems, alien landscapes, and late-stage technofetishist civilisations on the verge of collapse. This was no-ordinary 10 minute, blink-and-you’ll-miss it catwalk parade. After the final model exit, we all sat there for a few moments trying to find a sense of reality.
“My work explores new technologies, and how our society, our consciousness, our inter-relationships are changing,” Jon Rafman explained. Both with Vetements and Balenciaga, Demna’s work explores similar questions. From the moment he took control after the departure of Alexander Wang in 2015, Demna has gone about revolutionising the house from the inside out. From its branding right through to its campaigns, it was Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga from the get-go. However, while he's established his own vision across the business, he has paid homage to the house's past -- most notably by marking last year's 100th anniversary of Balenciaga with nine haute couture dresses that had been lost from the archive and were recreated from scratch.
Today, he built on the 3D tailoring first introduced last season. “It’s neo-tailoring, a new glamour for a new generation that haven’t grown up with it,” Demna explained. The dynamic at the house that Cristóbal built is innovation in cut, the discovery of ways of structuring a new architecture of shape. The experimentation, which began with high-technological 3D moulding of jackets and coats for both women and men, kick-started an extensive process of recasting tailoring and couture in ways which are relevant to the way people dress in the context of today. In the Parisian tradition, it aimed to celebrate high fashion elegance, while making it simple to wear.
“Presence is the key, now is the answer, ego is not who you are,” was the repeated message on the soundtrack. With the world seemingly on fire in real life and on the screen, some left the transportative experience fearing the end of the world, but Demna wanted us to leave hopeful. Parts of the world may be imploding but technology will save us all. “It’s very positive,” he promised, “technology is constantly evolving, it’s exciting.”
Beyond the visuals, Demna’s excitement for technology was evident in the sharp-shouldered silhouettes, single-seam dresses suspended from boned straps and the tailoring metamorphoses that saw matching shirts and fluid trousers for all -- “there’s no need for a jacket because the shirt is the jackets,” he added. “I think about comfort a great deal. What we do here is a luxury product. It costs a lot of money so I think it’s only right that I give as much intellectual input as possible. I think about what makes a suit feel approachable and relevant. We work on the fabric so that you don’t feel too hot.”
Beyond the immersive show set, this was arguably Demna’s most simple Balenciaga collection yet. Beyond the Comic Sans logomania and kitsch tourist Eiffel Tower embellished evening wear, this was a meme-less, meaningful collection that looked to redefine glamour for Generation Z and beyond. Even the streetwear elements of previous seasons weren’t present. The closest we got were track pants-influenced evening trousers. “I wanted to take things that are in our vocabulary, but to give them this new dimension of elegance,” he said. Glamour, redefined. The words “presence is the key, now is the answer” echo on.
Photography Mitchell Sams