Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Demna Gvasalia unveiled his Summer 21 pre-collection for Balenciaga with a film, featuring lone models striding through the Paris night, to the pulsing synth sounds of “Sunglasses at Night” by Corey Hart. The camera cuts from one model to the next in quick succession, showcasing their different looks (and yes, they’re all wearing sunglasses). Perhaps it was the way the street lights reflected on the wet pavements, the purposeful steps of the models (where were they going?), or the grandeur and the grime of Paris, but this fashion film had the air of a thriller about it – think Harrison Ford and Emmanuelle Seigner in the 1988 movie, Frantic.
You could see silhouettes (unisex, oversized) and got snatches of detail (a melting smiley face graphic, a pair of hotel slippers with a heel), but what the film couldn’t convey, was that sustainability was the overarching narrative of this collection. 93.5% of the plain materials used in the collection were certified sustainable or upcycled. 100% of the printed fabrics were sustainable and most of the silhouettes were unisex, because “that will diminish the environmental impact of a gendered production model.”
Seeing the collection, out on the streets of Paris, instead of in a fashion show setting, lent it all a sense of reality. Pyjamas and bathrobes (in faux sheepskin) were re-contextualised as going-out clothes. Similarly, tracksuits were rendered in fine fabrics. The designer brought Balenciaga’s Couture heritage to the fore, redefining it as an innovative craft. He upcycled deadstock into intricately patchworked pieces, fashioned knits from scraps of denim and used bootlaces to create a ‘fur’ coat. Gvasalia even made a chain-link dress from upcycled basketball hoop chains – a 21st Century update on Cristobal Balenciaga’s famous fisherman’s net dress. The designer described it as “a wearable wardrobe,” and it was – with plenty of surprises.
Photography courtesy of Balenciaga.