PARIS — The empty auditorium of the drowned world was black with foreboding. A gaseous, lemony scent filled the air. Every once a while a drip would ripple out through the pool of water that had swallowed the seats three rows deep. Then furious gray storm clouds rolled across an LED screen on the ceiling. Thunder crashed. And out splashed a woman in an austere black velvet cassock, hemline dragging in the flood. It was raining outside on Sunday in Paris, and at Balenciaga, a tempest was raging indoors.
There were more long black robes and vaguely sinister coat-hanger-shoulder suits. Leather and wool outerwear, the collars jutting up to the base of the skull and descending like a ski slope to the shoulders. Overhead, birds swarmed and flew away. A man appeared in a silicon jacket covered in spikes like porcupine quills. Fire consumed the sky. Accessories came with “bondage cuffs” and “mask” sunglasses (so-named in the show notes). Some models — not all were professionals; some were musicians, students, bike messengers, artists, of all ages — got wellies, some got waders, most got neither, and got wet. The earth appeared from afar in its blue and green calm. A few quilted floral housedresses appeared. A few suits in ThermaForm jersey molded to the body like a corset.
There was a total eclipse. It was so dark, it was almost impossible to see what was going on. Even when you could see, it was hard to concentrate. Shoulders were so sharp they could slice bread. Streetscapes blurred by. Articulated, branded motorcycle leathers and silk soccer jerseys appeared. Evening gowns with the leggings, gloves and shoes built in. The kind of clothes scavenged from the remnants of a society past. And rebuilt. Maybe.
J.G. Ballard (and his post-apocalyptic science fiction) circa 1962 would have felt right at home in Demna Gvasalia’s world circa 2020.