When everyone's meant to stay home, video games give an out. Not only are they a chance to escape to an alternate reality where you can climb mountains, explore islands, or simply go shopping, it's also a way to bring groups together in a Covid-safe way. While fashion and gaming haven't always gone hand in hand, Demna Gvasalia's Fall 2021 collection for Balenciaga ditches the runway for an alternate reality.
Entitled Afterworld: The Age Of Tomorrow, the game is a quest set in the year 2031, where the players (dressed in Balenciaga of course), navigate from a store, through a busy street, dark forest, and eventually arrive at a mountain top to finish their Tolkienesque adventure. “I hate the idea of fashion film. I find it very dated,” Gvasalia told Vogue. “We started working on this in April, since we knew that fashion shows would be out of the question.”
Typical to Gvasalia's tenure at the storied Parisian brand, the collection was chock full of practical clothes for the impending apocalypse. That includes oversized puffers, blankets that transform into capes, and even crinkle-proof suits (for those end-of-the-world business meetings). Read the show notes: "The game and the collection imagine a near future in which clothing is meant to transform over many years. Treatments tease out the aging process of materials, emphasizing the idea of wearing something for decades or repurposing it forever." In February, models walked down a waterlogged runway surrounded by fire and lightning, but this time around, every viewer can immerse themselves in the dark future of Gvasalia's imagining, adventuring by way of an Avatar already dressed in the new collection.
But, what would a modern Balenciaga collection be without a buzzy statement style — in this case, armor boots peeking out from below sweeping tailored coats and denim skirts alike. According to the press release, "Elizabethan armor made in the exact way it was centuries ago appears in a new allegorical context, as if destined for a modern-day Joan of Arc." While clothing as a form of protection has been oft discussed these last months, leave it to Gvasalia to make things literal.
But, despite the ominous overtones of the clothing and game alike, those who make it to the end of the Balenciaga adventure find a more lighthearted prize for their virtual efforts. “The game ends with breathing in, and exhaling. It leads to a breathing App. A horizon where you can breathe,” he adds in his Vogue interview. “It’s making a reconnection, a balance with nature.” Even those who may have put off exploring virtual realities until now have a reason to get their heads into the game.