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From the Le Cagole boot bag to the Retooled Classic Paris sneakers, it’s no secret that Balenciaga has presented some odd designs over the years. Therefore, when the French luxury fashion house staged its Spring-Summer 2023 ready-to-wear show on a mud-soaked catwalk on October 2 in Paris, the odd nature of the venue and the collection itself n was no surprise.
No matter how strange Balenciaga’s Mud Show may seem to the general public, creative director Demna Gvasalia presents a powerful social critique of war, society and identity through a combination of style and grime, creating a statement bold fashion with a shocking aesthetic.
In the suburbs of Paris, in the middle of a cavernous place filled with dark and damp mud, Ye – better known as American rapper Kanye West – opened the show by strutting down the floor in a huge safety jacket fully black and leather pants. The models followed with grunts on their faces and poor posture, trudging through the mud while sporting Balenciaga from head to toe.
The SS23 ready-to-wear collection consisted mainly of simple and dark colors. The palettes include a spectrum of blacks and grays with pops of Barbie pink and highlighter yellow, thrown into the mix to spice things up.
Of the 75 looks presented, there was an abundance of heavy nylon jackets, low-rise baggy jeans, flowing maxi dresses and matching sets of sweatshirts and running shorts. The weirdest accessories that went with the looks were the worn and demented teddy bear handbags, the bouncy corkscrew scarves that reached the models’ ankles, and the disturbingly realistic fake babies that were attached to the mannequins chest.
Baggy jeans and flowing dresses were dragged through thick, smelly mud as the models finished their walk. Soaking clothes in dirt is sacrilege for luxury designers, and many have expressed bewilderment and contempt for Gvasalia’s creative decisions. Twitter started claiming it was “a social experiment that went on too long” – so what exactly was the idea behind the Mud Show?
“I hate boxes and I hate labels and I hate being labeled and put in a box. society, the [I]The internet and the world in general love to do that, because you feel safe that way,” Gvasalia said in the show notes for this season. “The challenge is to get up and keep walking back to your true self after being beaten and knocked down.”
The Mud Show incorporated the idea of identity not only through the non-conforming style of the collection, but also through the structure of the show. In fact, the invitation to Balenciaga’s SS23 show was a dusty old wallet filled with receipts, coins, old banknotes and credit cards – all identifying items.
The mud runway itself is a statement that breaks with the boxes and labels that have a profound influence on the fashion industry; it may seem inexplicable and it may be blasphemous, but it is innovative and presents a powerful social commentary that other designers may not have the guts to convey.
Balenciaga has always had a reputation as a fashion house of uncompromising standards. Under the innovative leadership of founder Cristóbal Balenciaga, the brand achieved a fluid silhouette that manipulated the waist to create a new silhouette for women – a brave departure from the New Look popularized by Christian Dior.
Balenciaga also played with heavier fabrics, intricate embroideries and bolder materials. Due to its defiant resistance to the strict rules of the Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture – the governing body of the French fashion industry – Balenciaga’s brand was never considered haute couture until well later.
Likewise, Gvasalia’s style has always been based on creating subversive fashion. He is a designer who challenges society’s assumptions about while effectively redefining fashion design in its entirety; if one had to describe Gvasalia’s style, it would be avant-garde and unconventional.
“Putting luxury fashion into the box of the polished, exclusive and expensive visually is limited and rather old school,” Gvasalia continued. “I decided to no longer explain my collections and verbalize my creations, but to express a state of mind. Fashion is a visual art and all we need is for it to be seen through someone’s eyes. Fashion, at the best of times, shouldn’t need a story to sell to someone. You like it or not.
The mud show expressed Gvasalia’s words through its style. The muddy ensemble and clothing in the collection painted a powerful picture of a post-apocalyptic world with growing inequality, growing fascism and the threat of nuclear war – all of which are frightening qualities of today’s world. today. Fashion isn’t just mindless, mass-produced clothes; it is an art form that defies boundaries and aims to make powerful statements about society.
Balenciaga’s Spring/Summer 2023 ready-to-wear collection does just that. In the words of Gvasalia, “[t]This whole show is a metaphor for digging into the truth and being down to earth. Let everyone be anyone and make love not war.
Grace Tu is a 2022-2023 Social Media Manager. She can be reached at [email protected].