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In fashion, art, and the world in general, it seems that nowadays for anybody to make something remotely interesting, it has to be presented as subverting traditions, ripping up the rule book, putting two fingers up to the established order. It has got to a point where subversion itself has become a trope – it is the very convention that it is trying to defy. In spite of all this, Balenciaga somehow continues to surprise the fashion world at every opportunity, and the Spring/Summer 2022 show at Théâtre du Châtelet was no exception. A collaborative short with The Simpsons was preceded by a meta-red-carpet-cum-runway, which interspersed models, celebrity guests, and the employees of the house itself.

As attendees filed into the venue to see the red carpet, which they had just walked being live streamed onto large screens, it slowly became apparent that they weren’t there to watch the show – they were the show. Figures such as Cardi B, Elliot Page, and Naomi Campbell were among those to walk scattered among the House models themselves, who were all adorned in the collection, which consisted largely of black monochrome designs, allowing the shape of the outfits to take centre stage.

Classic Balenciaga silhouettes, such as David Byrne-esque suits and super-sized shoulder pads, as well as a reasonable offering of patent leather, were strong motifs throughout the collection. The ‘cyber goth’ Crocs and the XX bag, which inverted the Hourglass silhouette, were also stand-out inclusions. Last of all, Gvasalia himself came down the runway, in a face-obscuring outfit not dissimilar to that which he wore to last month’s Met gala. It was after this that the ‘real’ show began.

Rather than the iconic Simpsons theme tune, the short began with Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1. What followed was 10 minutes of history. To avoid any spoilers, the broad plot outline is that after Homer sends a letter to Gvasalia, asking for a dress, the entire town of Springfield ends up modelling the latest Balenciaga range. Every French and American stereotype imaginable was incorporated into the film; it’s almost unwatchable, yet it seems to just about work.

The episode pokes fun at the brand itself, as well as parodying the vacuousness of celebrity culture, and, among other things, the personality cult of Anna Wintour. Would Cristóbal Balenciaga himself be turning in the grave at the thought of a Balenciaga show headlined by a much loved, albeit relatively low-brow, American cartoon? We’ll never know; but I can assure you that it’s not something he would have expected.

The fashion world has had its say on the show, and it appears to have got an emphatic nod of approval. With publications hailing it as an ‘epic stroke of genius’ and claiming that the brand ‘just won Paris fashion week,’ you can be assured that this is a show that will live long in the memory. The only question now is: how will Gvasalia top this? If history is anything to go by, he will surely find a way.

Harvey Byworth-Morgan

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