By Julia Mancini
From the moment Adam and Eve suddenly covered their bits with leaves, or when the cavemen started comparing, clothing has evolved from bare necessity into a multi-trillion dollar luxury industry used to reflect modern social commentary and art expression.
If you follow fashion, or pay attention in the slightest to what people are wearing, you’ll notice that inspiration is constantly taken from the past. Take a walk around campus and notice that girls are still emulating the ‘90s grunge scene with dirty Docs and flannels. The L Trains, Buffalo Exchanges, and Goodwills are constantly rampaged for authentic “vintage” pieces. Even with the pressure designers face to create something new, they are still inevitably looking towards the past. New haute couture designers are constantly making odes to the originals like Coco Chanel or Elsa Schiaparelli.
But Balenciaga is redefining fashion in a different way. Demna Gvasalia’s ‘deepfake’ Spring 2022 Balenciaga show “Clones” has precipitated what the future means for fashion in a post-pandemic world. Their latest show is highlighting the potential problems with technology we try not to think about and the dangers that it holds for the future.
“Clones” was exclusively streamed online, featuring models, new clothing, and an audience, all through twisting camera angles that would make my father more nauseous than Mario Kart. At first glance, this show doesn’t seem out of line for Balenciaga. But the more you watch, the more you pay attention, the more uneasy you start to feel. The first thing a viewer might notice is that the audience, cohesively dressed in all-black funeral attire, is watching the show through their cell phones; then maybe that the soundtrack is an A.I. recording reciting the lyrics of La Vie En Rose over an eerie dystopian like tune, or that the same model is walking for every single look. But not just any model. This is artist Eliza Douglas, who has either opened or closed every show for Balenciaga the past few years. Unfortunately, Eliza Douglas isn’t that quick at changing such elaborate Balenciaga drip, which reveals the truth behind the show.
Viewers were only able to observe Balenciaga’s Spring 2022 online, not because of limited accessibility, but because it didn’t actually happen. It was a product of extreme deep-faking and editing. The clones were merely an array of models with Eliza’s face photogrammetry-captured and CG-scanned to create Eliza look-alikes. The audience wasn’t actually there; they were digitally added in through editing. It was the clothes, which some uncultured idiot unfashionable hags wouldn’t understand, that were the only real thing about this show.
Demna Gvasalia’s Spring 2022 “Clones” is a commentary on hyperreality, the inability of consciousness to distinguish reality from a simulation of reality. It reminds viewers of the dangers they face when using social media, especially in a world where we consume news and knowledge through the screens. ESPECIALLY during a corona crisis where we were overly reliant on technology for updates about the world. I mean, when’s the last time you took a shit without scrolling through content? Really. While this is all very important to bring up as I think society is too easily trusting and accepting of the internet, let me introduce the fact that Balenciaga is a cheating pig.
So Balenciaga is making this huge statement about the dangers of technology and how social media is the monster! But goes behind our backs collaborating with Fortnite to create a Balenciaga skin and delivering the most heart-wrenching, beautiful episode of The Simpsons to date? They strategically marketed ‘The Hacker Project’ as a comment on counterfeit in the fashion industry when it was just a meme “BB” belt rather than the legit “GG” Gucci one. They digitally streamed the fabricated show on Instagram, so the statement disapproving social media went viral on it. And on top of this, they’re releasing Crocs in the form of clog heels.
What I’m getting at is that Balenciaga has been trolling us. We love and accept and most importantly BUY everything they put out without questioning it. Just because the house and brand has made a name for themselves, we as consumers blindly accept that they are the all-knowing fashion gods, and we are the little ill-dressed and stupid peasant consumers.
Demna made this collection to remind us all that the knowledge we consume through a screen isn’t knowledge – it’s the projection of it. Which can be manipulated, censored, and changed accordingly. Just like the first time you watched the SS22 “Clones” show, you didn’t assume it was fake until someone told you. You blindly accepted it was real. Just like we do with the news, social media, and knowledge. So now you’re blindly accepting that fashion is fashion without accusing it and being skeptical and having your own thoughts. Abandon the herd mentality. While it is comfortable, it will make us collectively weak.
However you interpret Demna’s show, either as a warning of technology or commentary on the eradication of individuality or subculture or an exposé of the industry, I believe importance lies within it. You should probably watch it yourself. And you know, have your own opinion on it instead of adopting whatever opinion I’m spitting onto this page.