Demna Gvasalia’s latest Balenciaga collection is the apogee of fetishism in a post-apocalyptic society.
Guests arrived at la Cité du Cinéma, a scarcely lit film studio in Paris, to observe the luxury house’s Fall-Winter ’20 show. In the centre of the amphitheater, stood an elevated stage that was overfilled with water, leading to an ominous atmosphere with the first three rows in the audience uninhabited and submerged in water. When the show began, a LED screen that covered the ceiling projected a series of nightmarish clips that mirrored on the floor of the catwalk.
Visuals such as a flock of birds to churning seas to raging fires contributed to the cinematic wonder Gvasalia sought while inadvertently imitating the earth’s current state. The first thirty-or-so looks in the collection were styled in head to toe black and inspired by monastic garbs, a fetishistic and religious motif throughout the collection.
The approach was to remove the limitations of menswear, the creative director said himself: “I went to church to confess every Saturday. Back then, I remember looking at all these young priests and monks, wearing these long robes and thinking, ‘How beautiful.’ You see them around Europe with their beards, hair knotted back and backpacks. I don’t know, I find it quite hot—but that’s my fetish.” He continued, “how come it is acceptable for clerics to wear that, but if I put on a long jacket and a skirt I will be looked at? I can’t, even in 2020!”
Eventually, these robes made way for other pieces that demonstrate the designer’s aptitude for cutting new silhouettes. Models wearing blazers with pointed shoulder pads, classic trench coats in latex, and motocross leathers were seen as social commentary on the state of the world, power politics, and dress codes. Accessories in the collection include bondage cuffs, mask sunglasses, and oversized duffle bags.
Similarly to the brand’s latest advertising campaign of a dystopian evening newscast, Gvasalia uses the concept of an inevitable apocalypse to promote his collections while speaking to the discomforting fears people have in the world.