Tonight, on a rainy evening in Paris at Le Théâtre du Châtelet, Balenciaga reimagined the concept of runway and red carpet beauty. As guests emerged from the cover of umbrellas, designer Demna Gvasalia’s lens on fame, fantasy, and reality for the French fashion house’s Summer 2022 show tricked the senses. Outside of the theater, walls and floors melted into each other like a sea of ruby velvet, and paparazzi flashes lit up a cast of characters arriving in the collection itself.
One couldn’t help but question: What is real life, and what is show? Who is the model, and who is the celebrity guest? K-Pop star Mark Tuan, Naomi Campbell, and Cardi B strolled the same red carpet as models like Eve Jobs (Steve Jobs’s daughter, who made her modeling debut this year) who were wearing the season’s inky, oversized looks. Enormous ball gowns were paired with hairstylist Holli Smith’s vision of gelled, Matrix-esque bangs, while capes and silver foil dresses flowed beneath jagged flicks of extended black eyeliner. The latter is a look we’ve seen at Chloe and Valentino this week, though makeup artist Inge Grognard painted Balenciaga’s with an appropriately cybergoth spin.
The evening felt more like a film premiere or CinemaCon crowd than a fashion show (the main event did include a screening of a custom episode of The Simpsons where Homer wore a single dangling earring, Lisa was seen with hair set in curlers, and Bart skated down the animated runway). There was a Lara Croft-style braid trailing past a hood, a full face-obscuring mask, and Elliot Page (who Gvasalia dressed for the Met Gala last month) in steel-toed platform clogs and a slicked-down wet look so believable it could have been created by the weather itself. Balenciaga is known to embrace futuristic beauty, like 2019’s cheekbone and lip prosthetics commenting on popular face-altering procedures. If screen time, cosplay, and metaverses are tomorrow’s focus, perhaps these choices are a hint of what’s to come. Should Hollywood dare to take a page out of Balenciaga’s beauty book, awards seasons might see red lips and chignons swapped for sopping bangs and high-relief cheekbones.