Balenciaga’s ‘Clones’ explores fashion in liminal space between reality, technology 

Balenciaga /Courtesy

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On June 6, Balenciaga released its spring 2022 ready-to-wear collection for men and women on its official YouTube channel. In a virtual fashion show titled “Clones,” the fashion house’s creative director Demna Gvasalia explores technology’s filter on fashion, creating an alternate reality for his latest collection to exist. In “Clones,” director Quentin Deronzier transports the audience to a surrealist fever dream filled with Matrix-esque silhouettes, Crocs stilettos and a “hacking,” or parody, of famous Gucci pieces. 

To model all 44 of the show’s looks, Gvasalia and Deronzier call upon model Eliza Douglas; through a combination of deepfakes, machine learning and 3D modeling, the entire collection is presented through clones of her image walking through rows of virtual spectators. Gvasalia’s “Clones” never took place in reality;  it was instead simulated in its own liminal space. By using digital clones for this collection, Gvasalia’s playful approach is filtered by technology. The result is a dystopian package of Gvasalia’s signature trademarks, including oversized styles with magnified details that were perfected by the designer.

The looks presented, including the anticipated Gucci “hacks,” provide a peek into an alternate reality for fashion where luxury houses clash and collections exist in their own worlds. Balenciaga’s spring 2022 collection is introduced as society prepares its slow emergence from social isolation, raising the question of longevity and relevance for even Gvasalia’s star pieces. The show’s opening look has the model draped in an all-black outfit and an opaque veil. The following looks are standard fare for Balenciaga, where the house’s legacy meets Gvasalia’s avant-garde revisions. 

High fashion mixes with streetwear sensibility; blazers and puffers in exaggerated silhouettes are paired with hoodies and statement bags. Douglas’ clone, wearing a gray blazer with angled wide shoulders, carries a lime green grocery bag with leggings and black boots from Balenciaga’s Crocs collaboration. Floor-length trench coats make their way down the runway, worn with alien-esque sunglasses and headscarves. 

Denim also makes an appearance throughout the show in the form of oversized jeans and skirts with straps, rings and studs all over and paired with baggy graphic hoodies. The last look is a tight red dress with an oversized tulle mermaid tail, a tribute to the character Divine in the 1972 film “Pink Flamingos.” A contrast to the first look, this bright number ends the show on a high visual note. 

The collection is very Gvasalia, who stepped down from his brand Vetements to focus on introducing contemporary culture and streetwear influence to Balenciaga. The Triple S sneaker, an early Gvasalia trademark, makes an appearance in several looks. The sneakers are worn alongside a tracksuit-jumpsuit hybrid, oblong oversized sunglasses and an oversized tote bag, one of the Gucci pieces cloned by Gvasalia, its coated canvas covered in “BB”s to replace Gucci’s famous GG pattern. 

The tote is one of many Gucci clones, a response to Gucci’s initial Balenciaga “hacking” in its 100th anniversary collection. Among these, Gucci’s Jackie silhouette is redone with Balenciaga branding and the Instagram-famous monogram belt reinterpreted with a ”BB” buckle. It’s no surprise that these “Bucci” bags made this spring 2022 collection so highly anticipated. 

Upon first glance, these accessories may be mistaken for Gucci’s signature pieces. The aim is not to trick the eye as much as it is to question the idea of branding; a tote bag with “This is not a Gucci bag” painted on its side makes this clear. While it’s not uncommon for legacy fashion houses to collaborate with everyday brands, a creative partnership of this nature between two major luxury houses is historical.

As creative director, Gvasalia has built upon Balenciaga’s legacy through his edgy interpretations of shapes, creating a playful relationship between fashion and the body. These themes are continued through the impressive production value of “Clones,” placing the fashion house’s latest ready-to-wear and its standout accessories in a surreal liminal space. The only concern is whether this moment will fall victim to the fashion industry’s consumerist tendency toward hyped collections, eventually condemning Balenciaga’s Gucci clones to collect dust in the back of closets. 

Contact Michelle San Andres at [email protected].