As a rule, fashion designers took the tumult produced by Covid-19 as an opportunity to shake things up. There was the ubiquity of interactive digital fashion events, live-streamed runways, compelling collaborations. But few have taken the “shake things up” ethos as far as Demna Gvasalia, the long-time creative director of Balenciaga.
Rather than film and stream his fall winter ’21 collection in Paris, as has become the norm, Gvaslia debuted the pieces through an interactive VR headset, then created an interactive video game with avatars dressed in the pieces, streamed on Balenciaga’s website. Last week, he unveiled a groundbreaking collaboration with Gucci—a cross-over between the two iconic brands that saw Alessandro Michele merge Gucci’s iconic prints and motifs with the boxy, 80s-style silhouettes that have become Gvasalia-for-Balenciaga’s signature. Now, for pre-fall 21 (a collection he’s released months earlier than the usual schedule calls for), Gvasalia has unveiled a campaign video that doesn’t feature any clothes—and Balenciaga’s most sustainable collection to date.
“When I started this collection,” Gvasalia said in a post-show interview. “I said only show me sustainable fabrics. I don’t want to look at anything else.” As a result, the materials used in the pre-fall collection are almost 96% sustainable, a feat for any luxury brand. But Gvasalia’s pioneering attitude toward sustainability doesn’t stop with materials. It would, of course, be somewhat hypocritical to create a collection using almost entirely sustainable fabrics, but then craft wear-them-for-three-months garments with no real longevity. And so in this collection we see Gvasalia stick to the bread and butter that has made his tenure at Balenciaga so monstrously successful: timeless investment pieces like puffer jackets, printed dresses, and trench coats. In this way, Gvaslia is paving a pioneering path forward for what radical sustainability can look like in the luxury space. An alternative to ‘greenwashing’, his ethos includes crafting consistent collections that aren’t drastically swayed by trends—the kind of pieces you’ll buy and wear for life.
The clothes were unveiled via a lookbook which photoshopped models onto dozens of iconic travel locations—the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Great Wall of China, the Sydney Opera House—perfect for a world feeling desperately nostalgic for the days of unfettered global travel. Standout pieces include a magnificent voluminous yellow dress, reportedly inspired by Princess Diana’s wedding dress (it seems The Crown is touching every corner of the fashion ecosystem this season), fun new riffs on the iconic ‘Motorcycle’ bag (perfect for the Noughties-obsessed Bella Hadid types), and a bubblegum pink sweater emblazoned with the phrase ‘Gay Pride’. The latter is a rare display of political activism from Gvasalia, a gay man who fought social and institutional homophobia as a queer youth in Georgia.
All in all, the collection provided a double dose of fashion escapism: ethereally beautiful clothes rooted in wearability, and displayed against the far-flung backdrops we’re dreaming of wearing them in. You can see the entire 65-look collection below.