What I want from fashion is a tangible future. I want escapism, yes, but I want to see a tangible future. I want to see a way of dressing that is akin to now but so strange and obscure and weird that I can only see myself in it from a distance.
I get that with Balenciaga. Yes, I adore Rick Owens and Comme des Garçons for their ways of rethinking and abstracting fashion but, really, the works are intentionally unwearable. They’re projecting a too distant future. Balenciaga? They see next season as abstract yet present. They see a surrealist reality that is strange, yes, but it is based in a reality.
For their Fall 2017 presentation, you saw this in very simple gestures. Coats were drawn up to shoulders, fastened around the neck like an accident. Clothing draped off the body like a prematurely deployed parachute. Bags used by grandmothers were wrapped in cat skin. Car floor mats became skirts. Everything felt off but on, now and then, familiar and not: everything was the same but so slightly off, turned to the left, the dial pushed in instead of to the left or right.
“At Balenciaga, wearing the clothes inspires new clothes. That’s the way we work here,” designer Demna Gvasalia said at the presentation. You can see that considering none of the looks are that abstract. Yet, working with stylist and collaborator Lotta Volkova (who I love/hate), the duo have gained a reputation for creating clothing that is not quite what it seems. These clothes aren’t their streetwear focused Vetements duds but something more peculiar, new, weird that intends to shape clothing in the long term instead of the trend based short.
What you see in this show is something that JG Ballard alluded to with works like The Atrocity Exhibition and Crash, where violence and absurdity are a currency unique to modern culture, byproducts of technology and the need to broadcast intimates. No wonder everyone looks strangled, swept, and frequently fused with a product, be it a vehicle or type of plastic: that is our sad state of the future. Rather than dig a way out, Gvasalia seems to dig in, walking around current mindsets to see what a sexualized dystopian crash might look like as fashion.
The results are disturbing but brilliant. They are ugly but have a sublime curiosity to them. You want to stare at these people, fix them, right what is wrong with them. Yet, they’re comfortable. Their abnormality, their potentially abused façade, is what we are fed in politics, entertainment, etc. That’s the point: the future is now. Unfortunately, now we’re all a little turned around, choked at the neckline, seat belts strapping us too tightly. That is the wearable future.