BALENCIAGA’s creative director Demna Gvasalia never fails to comment on the current political and environmental climate through her fashion, and this year’s AW20 at Paris Fashion Week was no exception. There was something ominous about the show before it even began – the entire first three rows of the show space were entirely underwater, together with the centre of the amphitheatre.
Then there were the LED screens above the stage, showing apocalyptic images of eclipses, crows, and burning skies. A stunning set design from art director Nicke Bildstein-Zaar and an ‘in-your-face’ reminder from Demna of the rising sea levels and the hastening climate change we are facing now.
Being for the most part devoid of colour, the sci-fi anti-utopian feel of the collection fit in very organically with the show’s set design. Most looks of the AW20 collection had ‘The Matrix meets Catholicism’ undertones, with black leather trenches mixed with black robes and gowns, reminiscent of the founder’s Critóbal Balenciaga’s Catholic devotion.
It wouldn’t be Balenciaga if it didn’t bring any exaggerated to the extreme accentuation into the collection (see Balenciaga’s it dad trainers). This year Demna focused on exaggerated-shoulder designs, as seen in the brand’s dresses, jumpers and coats, all bearing extremely curved-up shoulder pads, reminding of the pagoda shoulder silhouette.
To add a bit of spice into the collection, Demna included casual-sport designs, inspired by hockey and football teams. As if designing for a fictional Balenciaga team, the AW20 looks included unisex football kits, shorts and sports bags.
By placing the audience directly in the flooded space, by showing images of climate change, and by using a diverse range of models (all of whom are friends of the design team as opposed to professional models), Balenciaga manages to directly address and discuss several of the burning issues at once. The house’s volatility, unpredictability and thought-provocation therefore always makes Balenciaga one of the most anticipated shows of the fashion season.