"This show needs no explanation. It is a dedication to fearlessness, to resistance, and to the victory of love and peace." Demna wrote in his show notes for Balenciaga's Fall 2022 show. As a child of war and a refugee at the hands of the same aggressor, the war on Ukraine that is currently taking place was the focal point of the show for Balenciaga's creative director.
It was a collection filled with resolve and resilience. As guests filtered into the show space, they were met with blue and yellow Ukrainian flag t-shirts and Demna's voice, one of resistance, that spoke the words of poet Oleksandr Oles in the Ukrainian language – a note of solidarity for those who needed to hear it.
For Demna, even the decision to go ahead with the show was a complicated one. A refugee from war in his country in Georgia in 1993, what the world is witnessing take place in Ukraine right now triggered the past trauma that he and his family experienced when he was just 11 years old. "This is why working on this show this week was so incredibly hard for me. Because in a time like this, fashion loses its relevance and its actual right to exist." He says in his show notes. "Fashion week feels like some kind of an absurdity. I thought for a moment about cancelling the show that I and my team worked hard on and were all looking forward to. But then I realized that cancelling this show would mean giving in, surrendering to the evil that has already hurt me so much for almost 30 years. I decided that I can no longer sacrifice parts of me to that senseless, heartless war of ego."
Initially, in signature Demna fashion – who is always wanting to communicate something more poignant than oversized silhouettes – the show was planned to examine the effects of climate change. But in the 360 degree glass rotunda snow-globe simulation, it was evident that as models struggled agains wind and snow, it was about more than the growing concern of global warming. It was a reflection of past, present, and future. It reconciled with the feelings of Demna's escape as a child from his war torn home, bent against the elements; it reckoned with the agony of the current destruction Ukraine is experiencing and the solemn reminder of history repeating itself; and it examined the effects of global warming in the not-so-distant future.
The resulting collection was clad with stoicism and resilience. Everything was stripped back to the codes Balenciaga is so well known for in 2022. Bodysuits are fitted with matching gloves and boots, while staples are offered with a note of destruction and distressing. Turtlenecks, T-shirts, and and hoodies are all modified, oversized or shrunken in size.
Knife like stilettos trudge through the snow alongside garbage bag accessories – undoubtedly acting as a note on displacement and the things that truly matter. Pullover outerwear is offered as a jacket alternative, lending a casual nature to the collection. The last two looks, a yellow tracksuit and a bright blue fitted dress with a 2 metre long train that billows in the simulated tundra consciously pay tribute to Ukraine, the democratic country that has brought so much up for the resilient designer.
Watch the Balenciaga Fall 2022 show, below.