The invite for Balenciaga’s Spring Summer 2022 Paris Fashion Week show arrived in a patent red envelope with a ticket enclosed inviting guests to the Théâtre du Châtelet at 8pm on Saturday night. The only hint at what we could expect was the promise of a red carpet, a screening and a cocktail event afterwards. With all of the hype surrounding the brand and its creative director Demna Gvasalia recently, spurred on by the likes of Kim Kardashian West’s already iconic Met Gala moment and Kanye West’s Donda album launch parties, the talk around the city was that this mysterious invite was for what was to become the event of the week.
As we filed into the theatre, unbeknown to the red carpet arrivals outside, entrances were being broadcast to the theatre as well as to a live-stream, just like watching the Oscars or aforementioned Met Gala, but with a twist: in between the arriving guests and celebrity friends of the brand were models wearing new season Balenciaga. Cardi B and Naomi Campbell posed in between actual show looks, many of which were modelled by members of Gvasalia’s own studio, including his personal assistant, in-house designers and his husband, Loïk. Gvasalia himself posed masked for the final look of the night.
Then the lines got even more blurred: Celebrities such as Lewis Hamilton, Elliot Page, Offset, Dev Hynes, and Ella Imhoff at first seemed to be arriving like everyone else, before it was made clear they too were part of the line-up, modelling the new collection as photographers and the huge crowd of fans screamed their names outside of the theatre.
Following taking their turn on the carpet, the cast of the show filed inside, making their way to seats dotted all over the theatre. Two rows in front of me sat Page, who’d just modelled the brand’s new season Crocs, and Cambell made her way in with a small entourage shortly after. But it was Cardi B and Offset’s arrival to the seats a few metres away that had everyone around me sitting up that tiny bit straighter to get in a look.
Once everyone was seated, the lights dimmed and suddenly we were watching a special 10-minute episode of cult cartoon show, The Simpsons. The skit depicted Homer forgetting Marge’s birthday before finding a Balenciaga flyer she’d been keeping. He then sends a letter to the brand’s Paris HQ begging them for the cheapest item they have. Making the whole theatre laugh, a cartoon depiction of Gvasalia says, “This is the saddest thing I’ve ever seen and I grew up in the Soviet Union.” After sending Marge a €19,000 dress which she wears for one fun evening before having to heartbreakingly return it, Gvasalia ends up deciding to fly to Springfield to invite the entire town to Paris. In another laugh out loud moment, the characters decline until Gvasalia reveals there’s a newly opened KFC on the Champs-Élysées.
The characters end up walking the Balenciaga runway in France, while in the front row, you could spot cartoon versions of Anna Wintour—who was in the theatre watching herself on screen wearing a similar floral dress as her cartoon character—as well as Balenciaga fans Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
The whole performance was incredibly meta and a continuation of Gvasalia’s exploration into fame, the way the fashion industry works and our obsession with pop culture. One thing’s for sure: he knows how to get us talking. Oh, and Marge Simpson should be the next Balenciaga campaign model.