If you haven’t yet, take ten minutes of your day to see Balenciaga’s latest fashion show. Titled “The Lost Tape“, the house’s Fall 2022 collection is a deliriously witty take on fashion’s current obsession with the ’90s. And because this is Balenciaga and Demna – the designer has asked to be addressed from now on by his first name only – the redux has a truly smart take on nostalgia and the past.
In particular, Demna decided to imagine a Balenciaga collection in the year 1997. Why the year 1997? It was a gap year of sorts for the luxury house. Between outgoing designer Josephus Thimister and incoming wunderkind Nicolas Ghesquiere, Balenciaga had decided to skip a season. This gap in the house’s history turned out to be an enriching inspiration for Demna.
The collection is a true celebration of late-’90s fashion. There’s a lot of Martin Margiela, to be sure. The Belgian designer has proven an enduring influence for Demna, who once worked at the then-mysterious house. The influence came through in copious amounts of black and deconstruction, as well as the venue of the show. A grittier locale than we are used to from Demna’s elaborate staging (apocalyptic flooded rooms, all-blue parliamentary mock-ups), it echoed Margiela’s seminal 1989 show held in a children’s playground.
Even the video, by American film director Harmony Korine, is a playful jab at fashion coverage of the past. Remember FashionTV? The crush of attendees squeezing past security and photographers? The pre- and post-show sound bites?
“Fashion is leadership.”; “It’s like… wow. A dream!”; “I love everything, I want everything. I need a sugar daddy!” Those quotes, by the way, are from industry fixtures and critics who were in on the whole affair and were dressed and filmed by the brand to lend some realism. Not content with just the video format, Balenciaga also made a jab at the routine of critics’ fashion reviews by having writer Diane Pernet pen a bogus newspaper review that served as additional show notes.
More than anything, this collection seemed like Demna’s love letter (or VHS tape, perhaps?) to the fashion industry as he remembers first encountering it – from one fashion lover to the next.