Balenciaga Fall 2020 RTW at Paris Fashion Week

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Demna Gvasalia Georgian fashion designer used his runway as a warning about the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle.

Guests arrived at a pitch-black auditorium at La Cité du Cinéma movie studios, its raised floor covered with water up to the first three rows of seats, creating a vast, mesmerizing reflecting pool. When the Balenciaga show started, projections overhead morphed from clouds to blue skies to flocks of birds to gushing waters. Eventually, that ceiling would lower, a manifestation of the sky actually falling

“I just wanted something quite emotionally triggering and quite sad, and I thought about the flood,” Demna Gvasalia said later. “In general, the consequences of our lifestyle — the flood is kind of a metaphoric thing.” He added that his flood wasn’t supposed to be water, that he’d scented the room to suggest something more frightening, kerosene.

Kerosene dreams aside, Demna Gvasalia wanted his models to look like they were walking on water, à la a certain Biblical stroll. Appropriately, they started out in full-on monastic garb. This was the collection’s primary motif for women and men, intended for both spiritual and fetishistic resonance. To the latter point, Gvasalia said as a child, he wondered why priests could wear dresses but he couldn’t.

Yet there was nothing celebratory about his embrace of the look. Rather, the mood was a dark one, all the more so in comparison with what had preceded it. Many in the audience had just attended Kanye West’s glorious Sunday Service.

Which offered a different take on church demeanour — a joyful one delivered by voices 120-strong. It’s unlikely Gvasalia’s monks, unrelenting in their sobriety, would have approved.

Religious dress codes are all about hiding the body, about being ashamed—body and sex is the taboo. Whereas when you look into it, some of these people are the nastiest perverts,” said Gvasalia.

Holding that thought—about constraint, rules and belonging to sects—set him off, designing neoprene suits with tiny compressed waists for women and black leather “Pantaboots” with padlocked “chastity belts” and a whole series of leather biker suits.

Gvasalia’s other themes: literal motocross and soccer uniforms for men, and for women, new takes on his now-iconic pagoda-shoulders in sharp tailoring and printed dresses with fluid skirts and long, full sleeves that looked a different kind of ceremonial garb.

The collection’s newest — and most fun — the idea came at night: a catsuit-cum-clingy-gown hybrid that isn’t for the faint of heart, but should find plenty of glam adventurers among the celebrity set. Kim Kardashian West comes to mind. The lady wears Latex to church.