Fashion loves a portmanteau, but the new one being forced these days – “fashion-tainment” – doesn’t sound good in the mouth. It’s not fun to say, much less type. Why does everything have to be entertaining anyway? With the pressure to secure eyeballs and engagement, brands have gone to extremes to entertain the masses – some to cringeworthy results — while others have found glory. Balenciaga is in the latter group, with a Spring/Summer 2022 show that showed the house delightfully parodying itself through a collaboration with The Simpsons. Demna Gvsalia is the master of fashion-tainment, and in bringing together high-brow fashion with low-brow comedy, fashion’s gatekeeper status was rendered obsolete. This was a moment that felt like a welcoming invitation to anyone.
The 10-minute episode, which was written by The Simpsons team, was a hilarious take on the transformative power of Balenciaga. In it, Homer Simpson wants to gift his wife Marge something she’s always wanted, a Balenciaga dress. He begs the brand via email for anything he can give his wife, “a scarf, a piece of cloth with a price tag, even just the tag.” The team at Balenciaga scoffs at the email, imagining it’s “just one of those American gags nobody gets”, and ships off a dress to Homer Simpson, along with a 19,000 Euro bill.
Marge gets to wear the dress briefly before she returns it, which gives way to some funny sight gags. My favorite was when she heads to “All You Can Eat Lobster” night with Homer, and he frantically attempts to protect the dress by covering it in lobster-printed napkins. The result was akin to Balenciaga’s signature voluminous shingled silhouettes, with a touch of Elsa Schiaparelli’s 1937 ‘Lobster Dinner’ dress. Later, when Marge returns the dress, the cartoon version of Gvsalia reads Marge’s enclosed letter, and decides to help the “style deprived” citizens of Springfield by inviting them to walk the Balenciaga runway in Paris. Paris? “Never heard of it,” one of Springfield’s citizens quips.
It turns out, there’s a place for everyone in the Balenciaga universe, even Bart Simpson.
But the clothes seen in The Simpsons episode are not the ones that Balenciaga designed for Spring/Summer 2022. Instead, those were comprised of the house’s greatest hits: couture-like bell dresses, oversized puffa jackets, and draped gowns with knife boots and exaggerated shoulders. For the Spring/Summer 2022 collection, Gvsalia eschewed the traditional runway show and instead created a ‘Red Carpet’ event where invited guests arriving at Théâtre du Châtelet for the episode screening wore the new collection. The looks ran the gamut from street-smart outerwear in oversized shapes and draped silver lamé metallic gowns with high-low hems to one incredibly spectacular gothic gown worn by Bronte Telitha. Another notable look came from Cardi B, who wore a gown that was upholstered with tabloid magazine covers, a wink and a nod to the gossip that follows her wherever she goes.
To say Gvaslia’s approach to his return to the live-show format caused a stir would be a vast understatement. The collection, The Simpsons episode, and Gvasalia’s own masked appearance in one of the looks has spawned a thousand memes already. If anyone has their finger on the pulse of fashion-tainment, who understands innately how to draw in even the most uninformed audience member, it’s him. It turns out, there’s a place for everyone in the Balenciaga universe, even Bart Simpson.