The Less-Than-Impressed Girl ?i
Or Demna’s faintly asian-esque courier-cum-muse ?
I don’t really have all the answers, but thank goodness my boy Bliss is soon to be breaking down Balencie’s Summer 20 show. Demna’s latest has had me in a trance since late September. Mostly the all-black “Tyrex” shoes, which ima definitely cop when they drop next month,ii but also the holy-fuck-old-wrinkly-fucking-people-not-even-models-dressed-as-hapless-shopping-mall-security-guards-as-high-fashion-as-fine-art-like-seriously-what-the-fuck-is-that-a-Mastercard-logo-no-wait-that’s-definitely-a-shower-curtain-with-the-rod-still-in-it-for-the-shoulder-pad-and-those-ball-gowns-look-like-planets-orbiting-the-sun-from-bird’s-eye-view-not-to-mention-the-set-design-which-has-very-Richard-Kelly-at-Seagram-hints-about-it.
The whole look, from the geometric cuts of the tailoring to the augmented faces, is prosthetic. At the end of the last decade, in his final show, Alexander McQueen sent strange alien creatures down the catwalk in otherworldly garms. Now, at the end of this one, Demna suggests that the aliens were us all along; that we’re the weirdest things out there.
The perversion of the stock image has been a project of the 2010s — from DIS, to Balenciaga, to the bad boyfriend meme — and one that expresses a growing realisation that nobody is quite what they seem. Until this decade, when social media laid bare our innermost psyches, we perhaps never acknowledged how weird we all are inside, how most people are just thinking the most unusual things all of the time. Normality doesn’t actually exist. And now we’re struggling to cope with this realisation as a society.
What we all share, however, is a common strangeness, and the reason Demna is so successful and of the moment is exactly because his clothes speak to this strangeness. He thinks our clothes shouldn’t be façades to hide behind. Not even our work clothes. They should show us for what we really are. Everything should be taken apart and made authentically weird. “Authenticity,” Demna once said, “is about going back to the original archetype. Every garment I do is based on a garment that already exists; I don’t invent anything new.” He’s not interested in inventing anything new, or in paying respects to the archive, but rather in unspooling what’s already there and revealing what’s hidden inside. “Reality?” he asked backstage after the last show, “I don’t think it gets more real than this.”
Balenciaga, like so much contemporary culture, like so many posts on the internet, is hard to parse. Is this genuine? Is this ironic? His project is widely misunderstood. Many assume that he’s joking around, or running his studio as some kind of art project, but the truth is he’s always been focused on clothes and how we dress and what that says about us. Sincerity is a luxury now and his approach to design is very sincere; it’s just that he’s holding his distorting mirror up to a crazy world. These days, he is less interested than before in Total Fucking Darkness or lighting his way with the bridges he burns. Demna lives with his boyfriend in the Swiss countryside and keeps to a healthy lifestyle and tries to remain hopeful. So what is going on in his blue parliament? What do they want, these politicians? Balenciaga’s SS20 manifesto, or something approximating that, might be collaged together from feel-good, made-up headlines and printed over two of his long flowing trench coats: “Be kind to animals… Make the world a better place… Tell someone you love them today…” all good common-sense policy, writ large on these clothes for the end of the world.iii
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