Fashion’s resident comedians are Demna Gvasalia and his team at Balenciaga. For every perfectly wearable, oddly ordinary piece in today’s Balenciaga show - the now ubiquitous sporty puffas and expertly oversized shirts, which have sparked a thousand copies - there were little nods and twists and in-jokes. Quirks that appeal to those in the know. Twists that make those who pick up on them feel validated. It’s these ingredients that give Balenciaga - and Vetements, Gvasalia’s own brand - its pull and punch. No one goes crazy for some twisted tailoring (this season more baggy than before) or a hoody alone. It’s the sense of subversion, the veneer of punk, that pulls in the crowds and gets the reviewers waxing lyrical. The clothes themselves are great pieces - vaguely akin to the way American designers prioritise clothes as clothes, not fashion - but the hype has always been the result of something else. It’s exacerbated by the fact that Gvasalia so ardently insists that there’s no concept or intellectualising behind his work - all those headlines about him ‘turning two fingers’ to the industry or ‘revolutionising the system’ are hyperbole, he insists. Yet the fashion pack keep insisting that’s what Gvasalia and co are doing. Why?
This collection was almost aggressive in its ordinary-ness. Provocatively boring. One joke that worked was the sweater branded with the slogan Kering, a nod to the group that owns Balenciaga (and Gucci and Alexander McQueen and Saint Laurent). Is there less subversive of a statement than a shout out to the mega group that made Gvasalia a star? The irony of a designer dubbed an ‘outsider’ putting the name of a huge conglomerate on one of his pieces was the punchline. How droll. In part, it made me feel a bit sad to think of teens aspiring to be somehow provocative by owning a sweater supporting a shoutout to capitalism in its purest form, especially given the state of the world today. 58% Don’t Want Pershing, this certainly wasn’t. But there’s a vaguely dystopian apathy to Gvasalia’s chosen slogans - they acknowledge the state of the world, rather than try and question it. Case in point, think back to ‘Justin Forever’ at Vetements.
I’m writing this from pictures. No ticket was made available for SHOWstudio. It’s telling that while the designer prides himself on looking to the real world, to the quotidian clothes that ‘real’ people wear - ‘reality’ - the brand still prioritises the sense of a closed world, an elite driven by print editors and reviewers. Who am I to argue? Exclusivity and loftiness still mean a lot in fashion today. It’s not really sex or celebrity that sells today, it’s nonchalance. The veneer of not caring. That said, the luxury of not caring can never be a reality. Gvasalia’s working hard - turning out collection upon collection to keep up with the punishing pace of fashion. And we the fashion pack certainly care - see the headlines, the covers, the shoots, the fawning. The wearer also cares - no true outsider, full of ease and effortlessness, spends over a grand on a vintage look suit or trainers and sweaters that could be bought from a sports shop. So where’s the real nonchalance? Some models walked the runway laden with what looked like shopping bags. Shopping, that’s the real story. Easy come, easy sell.