14 June 2021

Demna Gvasalia’s powerful collection for Balenciaga opened to a spooky version of Edith Piaf’s ballad, ‘La Vie en Rose’, as a soundtrack. When this song about finding love after trying times was first released at the end of the World War Two, it was adopted as an anthem for hope. Was this Demna’s metaphor for our post-lockdown landscape?

This second instalment of Balenciaga’s partnership with Gucci’s Creative Director Alessandro Michele for Spring/Summer 2022, ‘Clones’, was a virtual show in more ways than one. Not only was I watching it online, but I also noticed that hardly anyone in the ‘audience’ – all of whom were dressed top-to-toe in black – was taking pictures. That’s because the show was deep faked, with the same model wearing every outfit on a clinically white runway. 

An evening gown from the ‘Clones’ collection by Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga, Spring/Summer 2022

“Technology creates alternative realities and identifies a world of digital clones,” the designer explained when asked about his premise. “Between unedited and altered, genuine and counterfeit, tangible and conceptual, fact and fiction, fake and deep fake.”

The clothes were real, however, and the mood was for pretty patterns but with a tangible sense of toughness. The collection was polished and focused, and seemed to bring Balenciaga back to its Spanish roots but replanted in Paris. It was based on fine cutting and the ability to present men’s and women’s style without a male/female divide.

There were references to last year’s collaboration with Gucci, with Gucci’s double-G monograms becoming double-Bs, and a focus on accessories, especially footwear and graffiti handbags.

The anger seems to have trickled out of the designer’s anarchic spirit, and is now replaced by strength – a vision perhaps best summed up as “sweet and sour”.