The Hacking Project between Gucci and Balenciaga rolls on, with Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia swapping Gs for Bs in the Florentine house’s iconic diamond monogram — and adding a Magritte-esque touch by gleefully vandalizing one weekender with the tag “This Is Not a Gucci Bag.”
The spring collection is a thought-provoking play on what is real and what isn’t, and where technology has messed with our heads. Artist Eliza Douglas, and clones of her, model all 44 looks for women and men in a gripping, yet disquieting runway video by Quentin Deronzier. Achieving the hyper-realistic clones involved teaching body doubles to walk like Douglas, and grafting her impassive face onto them with the latest digital tools so convincingly that Gvasalia confessed he couldn’t identify the real her from the deep fakes — and this is the woman who has opened or closed every Balenciaga show since he arrived at the French house in 2015.
According to Gvasalia, the clones are a critique on fashion’s obsession with trends and “hero” items, which diminishes individuality, while the hacks on Gucci were a giddy, Kering-approved commentary on counterfeiting and the don’t ask, don’t tell practice of appropriation so widespread in fashion.
Meanwhile, the extensive post-production technology used to create the video — involving planar tracking, rotoscoping, machine learning and 3D modeling — is the designer’s way of prompting people to think about our obsession with screens and the deluge of digital imagery we consume, rarely knowing if it’s been photoshopped, put through some filter or if it’s actually true.
Which left the stage for the Balenciaga clothes, all of which are 100 percent real and heightened expressions of Gvasalia’s obsessions — oversized silhouettes, puffers, hoodies, trenchcoats, floral dresses and tracksuits — this time all buffed up to relay a modern type of elegance exemplified by his sexy bustier and trousers, done up in sweatshirt material, and hulking down jackets with jutting, face-framing collars. The supersized fashions had a commanding presence, hovering somewhere between chic glamor and punk rebellion.
The show opened with what resembled mourning garb and gradually cheered itself up with candy-colored Crocs, a sweatshirt featuring the Simpsons wearing last season’s Balenciaga, clutch bags resembling fast-food packaging, and a fishtail finale gown that’s a ringer for the one Divine wore in “Pink Flamingos” in 1972, though done up in stretch velvet.
“It’s kind of a Demna wardrobe,” Gvasalia shrugged.
And it’s — fingers crossed — his last hurrah with haute technology, which became integral to his creative expression during the pandemic. He’s had a blast making fashion films and even a video game, but the digital realm is losing its charm. Balenciaga is banking on a live show at its restored Avenue George V salons during couture week in Paris, marking Gvasalia’s first stab at high fashion and the brand’s comeback to couture after a 53-year absence.
From clones to one-of-a-kind.