Demna Gvasalia’s SS21 presentation brings about a refreshing change of pace from the hauntingly dark and apocalyptic atmosphere that defined his previous showcase, one that echoed the sense of hopelessness that existed at the epicentre of the pandemic. This past season, Balenciaga’s creative director was in a far more optimistic place, delivering a collection that contrastingly centres around the post-pandemic mood. Because, as Demna himself posits, “someday, we will be out of this”. But being a designer who is acutely conscious of the sociocultural implications of such a massively disruptive global phenomenon, Demna acknowledges that things will inevitably be different going forward and so his collection endeavours to explore the manner in which fashion and people, in general, will adapt to the post-pandemic landscape.
Demna has always been a pioneer for environmental salvation, making a conscious effort to put sustainability at the forefront of his creative process. For this collection, he challenged himself to conceptualise the immediate future of fashion against the backdrop of the pandemic, ultimately theorising that our approach to fashion, as both creators and consumers, will naturally align more closely with sustainability. Inevitably, we will seek to preserve and recycle what we already have, for economic stability if not for anything else. It’s a sentiment that’s reflected in Balenciaga’s environmentally mindful production statistics for the season: 93.5% of the plain materials are either certified sustainable or upcycled, while 100% of the print bases have sustainable certifications.
When considering other potential strategies for circumnavigating the sustainability challenge, Demna realised that his approach would benefit from the rejection of a more typical, gendered production model, instead opting “to do garments that are unisex, uni-size, uni-everything”. Our featured Balenciaga Turquoise Destroyed Oversized Hoodie is the perfect example of his leaning towards a genderless and sizeless production template. It’s indicative of his vision for a shared, communal outlook for his collections, where the term ‘one-size-fits-all’ can refer to gender as much as it does size. Adopting such an approach also seems to have had significant positive environmental implications, as the number of cuts and fits that Balenciaga had to make for this collection was drastically reduced.
One other noticeable aspect of this SS21 collection is how approachable and effortlessly wearable the garments are. The apparent emphasis on merging comfort with luxury can be attributed to a sense of post-pandemic melancholy where we learn to embrace the nonchalance of the baggy sweatpants and oversized hoodies that brought us so much solace during the height of the lockdown era. ‘Comfycore’ styles like the Balenciaga Blue BB Logo Knitted Oversized Hoodie and Balenciaga Black Soft Tracksuit Pants remain “a part of a Demna fashion vocabulary, and will stay there as long as he feels the relevance of those codes”, as stated by Gvasalia himself.
In the wake of Balenciaga’s SS21 pre-collection show, the designer recounted how the pandemic reframed his outlook on fashion design and helped him to remember the simple pleasure of dressing up. It inspired him to deviate from the archetypal structure of heavily themed collections, instead choosing to place his focus on clothes that look cool but feel fun and easy to wear. And that extends to the unique footwear offerings as well, with the effortless ‘slip-on, slip-off’ design of our Balenciaga Black Leather City Loafers, and the orthopaedic comfort of the Balenciaga Black Track Sandals (both utilising sustainably sourced fabrics of course), helping to reinforce Gvasalia’s progressive vision.
The fascinating take-away from all of this is that the lifestyle experiences that most of us have shared during this most tumultuous of years are really just a taste of things to come in Demna’s conceptualisation for the future of fashion. A future that hypothesises a natural evolution of the contemporary principles of sustainability and effortless accessibility, rather than a radical departure from those foundations.