Moving the dial … the expression is such neo-speak it would normally make me gag a little, but sitting in the Théâtre de Chatelet on Saturday night after a screening which compelled me to absorb the fact that Demna Gvasalia had persuaded Matt Groening and his team to create an episode of “The Simpsons” in which Demna travelled to Springfield to cast its citizens in a Balenciaga show in Paris, I definitely felt like there’d been some kind of realignment in the cosmos, Mercury in retrograde be damned.
Gvasalia is a deep-thinker. After everything we’ve been through, runway shows still feel wrong to him (that watershed couture collection in July was something else altogether). He still needed a pretext for his new collection to be shown, something to make people have fun, maybe a few drinks and a dance. “The Simpsons”That was the reason he was offered. He’d been watching the show since he was 10 years old. Five years ago, Lloyd, the man he would mar, had a Homer tattoo placed on his arm. It was instant kismet. Now this is the bit where he is Demna Gvasalia and you’re not. He wrote an email address to Matt Groening. “My whole life depends on you guys, ‘The Simpsons’ inspired me to be who I am.” Obviously, he’d never done anything like that in his life. Groening and co. replied in astonishment. “OK, we get what you guys do conceptually.”Gvasalia says that it was all about concept. “It was not about fashion because I don’t think they’re into destroyed sweatpants.”
So the Simpsons team wrote a script, Gvasalia adjusted the ending (Homer catches on fire, Demna wanted Anna Wintour to spray him with champagne to save him, that’s not quite what happens in the final version), and the collaboration yielded one of the funniest, most charming episodes of “The Simpsons”In years. Except it’s not a full episode, more a short film. It also reinforces Balenciaga’s brand in ways Demna could not have imagined. The sequence in which Homer struggles to pronounce the name correctly (echoes of Ver-sayce and Nomi Malone) “Dreamgirls”), or the Acme-like reiteration of the brand name on every product that appears on screen (though Gvasalia insists that was nothing to do with Balenciaga, everything to do with Simpson).
Balenciaga has become a brand whose weight can be cartoonized, thanks to Demna. He revamped his new collection’s special evening as a red carpet event. The arrival of guests on the red-carpet was a seamless event. As we sat down, the entire show was projected into the auditorium, much like an awards show or major premiere. It was a genius subversion of a tired contemporary cliché. But that’s the kind of thing that Gvasalia excels at. Gvasalia cuts down to the essential, and rubs your face with transcendent ordinariness. His red carpet with its cast of celebrities — Cardi B to Elliot Page to Isabelle Huppert to Naomi Campbell — and local heroes (a huge roar for the bearded guy with the heavy eye makeup) was utterly Warholian in its explicit faith that everyone is a star.
That’s also why the clothes he showed as a prelude to the premiere of his Balenciaga/Simpsons wonderment were like a consummate Dictionary of Demna. The exaggerated shoulders, the logofication, the hoodies and all-consuming flares, the distressed denim, the doubled dress, the industrial crocs … all of this is so vernacular now that it’s almost like folk costumes. The new ingredients were the couture tropes: a Scarlett O’Hara hoop skirt, black lamé with the light-absorbing properties of tar, a sweeping train of silver lamé.
It was a magnificent thing. The thunderous applause was audible. “Did it make you laugh?”Gvasalia was asking for directions. “I wanted you to be happy.”It did. We were.
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