Demna pays tribute to Ukraine with Balenciaga Winter ’22 runway
All eyes were on the Balenciaga Winter ’22 runway on Sunday morning in Paris, as designer Demna (formerly Demna Gvasalia) debuted the brand’s newest collection. The experience was made more accessible than ever before, with the luxury brand offering a 360˚ virtual reality live stream through the free Balenciaga app.
The elegant musical score was done by BFRND, who has been working on Balenciaga’s runways since 2017. Interestingly, invites to guests (including Kim Kardashian) were presented in the form of smashed iPhone 6s’s, with the invitations screen printed onto the damaged aluminium back of the phone, reigniting rumours of an upcoming collaboration between Apple and Balenciaga in the near future.
Image credits: @starworld7000 on Instagram
In the context of the Russian bombardment of Ukraine, many were unsure as to whether the show would go ahead; especially as war is no new concept to Demna – he himself was a refugee of war at age 12. However, the show went on, and was almost entirely dedicated to the Ukrainian war effort. A note left on the seats, along with a T-shirt in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, said that while “fashion week feels like some kind of an absurdity”, to cancel the show would have meant, “surrendering to the evil that has already hurt me so much for almost 30 years”.
All hunched over and struggling against the artificial snow blizzard that filled the circular runway, the models donned flimsy dresses, distressed hoodies, and battered jeans from the ready-to-wear collection. Many clutched oversized holdalls, designed to represent binbags full of worldly possessions of those refugees fleeing their home country.
Female models wore clinging dresses with large caped backs, baggy sleeves and trains that billowed against the harsh wind that had been created in the snow globe-like runway. Double breasted tailoring and parachute-silk anoraks boasted utility strapping, while haute hoodies were styled with jeans and heeled boots.
Image credits: @balenciaga on Instagram
When the idea of using snow on the runway was conceived almost half a year ago, the use of the blizzard was to act as a commentary on the climate emergency, suggesting the environmental conditions may one day be created in virtual reality if we do not act to slow the destruction of the O-Zone. With the emergence of the situation in Ukraine, however, it assumed a whole different meaning.
It goes without saying that there will inevitably be some uneasiness with the juxtaposition of high fashion with the war in Ukraine, not least because the dresses that Demna’s models showed off will retail for upwards of £2,000 when released. A luxury fashion house, which markets itself as for the few and not the masses, trying to illustrate and show a form of solidarity with a national crisis as catastrophic as this whilst still attempting to boost profits may be slightly tone-deaf, at least to some. Nevertheless, Balenciaga has joined many other fashion retailers in carrying out sanctions against Russia, temporarily closing all of their Russian stores and moreover the brand continues to support the World Food Programme, which aims to help feed those who are fleeing the war, thus demonstrating that their visible support for the people of Ukraine is not merely superficial virtue-signalling.
Link to World Food Programme and Balenciaga’s Ukraine Appeal: https://wfpukraine.balenciaga.com