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Balenciaga’s latest show was a commentary on the climate crisis, virtual reality and war in Ukraine


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written by Nick Remsen, CNNParis France

With all eyes on Balenciaga, one of the most awaited collections at Paris Fashion Week, the brand’s creative director Demna used his platform to pay tribute to Ukrainians in a dramatic show that sparked a deep sense of unease about the future.

For the designer, the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Eastern Europe, where more than 1.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country, is striking near their homelands.

Dimna (who prefers not to use his last name) was born in Sukhumi, a city in Georgia that saw heavy fighting during the country’s civil war in the early 1990s. The designer and his family were among the tens of thousands of people who fled Sukhumi amid conflict in the disputed region of Abkhazia, which Russia considers independent despite being internationally recognized as part of Georgia.

“The war in Ukraine has caused a previous traumatic pain I have endured since 1993, when the same thing happened to my country and I became a forever refugee,” he wrote in a note handed to guests who attended the poster exhibition. Show fall-winter 2022, on Sunday in the outskirts of Paris.

In a touching moment, the designer recited a poem in Ukrainian by the beloved poet Oleksandr Uels. No translation was provided because Damon wanted those who could understand her to hear her overarching message about power. In another gesture, Ukrainian flags were raised over the guest seats.

During the show, exhibitors walked through artificial snow and deadly winds, some carrying oversized leather trash bags (or trash bags, as show notes described them).

While the set was designed before the outbreak of war in Ukraine, it was hard not to draw parallels, and speaking to reporters behind the scenes, Dimna said the set and set-up – a stunning and exciting production – intentionally reflect his own experience of conflict and displacement 30 years ago.

Damna also noted that the severity of the group was, originally, in part a commentary on climate change, and how, due to global warming, snow may have to be digitized in the future. A glass wall separated the audience from the circular group, creating an IRL live stream.

The show wasn’t the first time our blood had come back to the war in Ukraine. Last week, Balenciaga posted a photo of the Ukraine flag on her Instagram account and stated that all of the company’s channels will share details on how to contribute to relief causes. The publication also announced that the poster will provide guidance on resources for verified information.

A look from the Balenciaga Fall-Winter 2022 collection, presented during Paris Fashion Week.

A look from the Balenciaga Fall-Winter 2022 collection, presented during Paris Fashion Week. credit: Balenciaga

Since then, Balenciaga has deleted that photo from her network, and uploaded the photos from the show. The donation link to the World Food Program is still in the highlights section of Balenciaga’s Instagram.

The collection featured long trains and flowing silhouettes along with classic essentials like turtlenecks and oversized shirts. Distinctive bodysuits were also shown. One of the models was wrapped from head to toe in yellow and black Balenciaga wrapping tape – an identical look seen on Kim kardashian who attended the event as a guest.

The show ended without a conclusion, with the models usually gathering together for one last tour as a group. Instead, the latter model set out on an intense, claustrophobic track titled “The Tempest” by electronic music composer BFRND. Lights flash in the false sky above the group and the drama hostess flashes to the man-made weather.

In his note to guests, Damna said he considered canceling the show entirely the week before, reflecting the fact that “in a time like this, fashion loses its relevance and its de facto right to exist.”

“Fashion Week sounds kind of silly,” he wrote.

But he came to the conclusion that canceling the event meant “surrendering” and “surrendering to the evil that has already done me so much… I decided that I could no longer sacrifice parts of me in that senseless and heartless war of the ‘ego’.”

In the end, the show did what the designer could do best: It forced the viewer to ask questions, both about himself and about the system—perhaps a thorny suggestion that Demna’s Balenciaga mirrors the world, and so often what we see looking at us would be uncomfortable.

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