Balenciaga: Knights of the Round Table for Fall 2021
Balenciaga debuted a novel new runway show format on Sunday afternoon – though not a Paris catwalk, but instead in a customized video game named 'Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow'.
The game did require a rather long wait, as guests were greeted with the message: “Please wait to access the game (your queue number is above). Do not reload this page.”
Duly warned, with cappuccino in hand, one attended patiently before entering Balenciaga’s Tomorrow. A digital clock listing your place in the queue. After gaining admission, the game’s architecture turned out to be a jumble of modernist boutique: concrete bunker, futurist Eldorado, and inner-city garden.
Twiddling one’s thumbs led one on a tour of the boutique -- whose design echoed Balenciaga’s Paris flagship -- itself a former garage on the city's Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, with graphic flooring, high-gloss stainless steel shelves and techy hangers.
Interspersed within the virtual world were models, mannequins and avatars wearing the Fall 2021 collection designed by Balenciaga’s creative director, Demna Gvasalia. In yet another power packed series of clothes from the Georgian designer: Oversized rock star bashed-up wool suits; crisp calico blazers; giant trenches that looked cut three sizes to large; massively wide shouldered spy coats – all finished with sleeves that ended at the finger tips.
Nearly all the cast wore elements of Arthurian armor – with metal greaves, sabatons and cuisses. Though all reimagined in a lacquered material much lighter than the traditional steel. Each model posing as if ready for a royal rumble in the Demna’s Age of Tomorrow game. After hours Lancelots of the Lake.
The collection had certainly oodles of kick and attitude. No designer does volume with as much credibility as Gvasalia, whose aesthetic manages to impart downtown cool, along with a sense of heroism.
Plus, fans of his logomania will find lots to acquire in this array - from white shirts with Balenciaga written as if for an oil can, to new NASA Balenciaga satchels. In fact, the highlight of the whole display were the silver astronaut parkas and blue NASA flight jackets.
But, if the collection was a strong clear fashion statement, the virtual journey felt like a long-winded detour. Those of us old enough to have been alive when the last Catholic president - JFK – was in the White House will struggle with this convoluted video game. One kept on ending up in gray mortar backrooms or behind bushes. Quite what the pre-show trumpeted “allegory of 2031” was exactly very hard to fathom.
But, one should praise the house for at least attempting a new format in the midst of the pandemic, when entire fashion runway seasons were forced to cancel.
Besides, King Arthur, and Cristobal, probably would have liked the clothes very much. They were that good.
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