This week, it was barely possible to go on Tiktok, Instagram, or virtually any other online space without seeing a post where someone wades in with their opinion on the recent Balenciaga show. This is because Demna Gvasalia, creative director at the brand, made the controversial choice to include some celebrities and media personalities instead of professional models. The inclusion of these figures, and the subsequent public backlash, perhaps speaks to changing role of fashion, and couture especially, in modern society.
The overarching theme of the show appeared to be futurism: the first 38 looks were worn by models clad in neoprene from head to toe and consisted of largely blacks and neutrals. Then, Gvasalia revealed the faces of his models, the crowd seeing in the last 20 looks the likes of Nicole Kidman, Naomi Campbell, Kim Kardashian, Dua Lipa, and Bella Hadid. In these final looks, the colours were bold, featuring neon yellows, neon pinks, and reflective silver. Bold and striking shapes eventually culminated in look 59, which brought the show back to its beginning with a face-covering veil over a dramatic gray and white ballgown silhouette that gave something of a macabre, futuristic bridal feel.
And yet, despite this exciting and visually intriguing show, most of the commentary available online focuses on the use of celebrities instead of models. Their walks have been admonished as awkward and ungainly, and internet users were quick to point out that ‘real’ models would have lost out on jobs as a result of this decision. This adverse reaction potentially points to the increasing role of models-as-celebrities. With the rise of phenomena such as ‘nepo-babies’ (as the beneficiaries of celebrity nepotism have been branded by the internet), the lines between celebrities and ‘professional’ models is becoming blurred. When Bella Hadid was included in the line up, it is was unclear whether she was there in her capacity as an experienced model, or because of her celebrity status. Ultimately, the backlash that Gvasalia’s choice has had on the internet stems from a public opinion that celebrities simply do not model as well as the professionals; the problem is, it’s becoming increasingly hard to tell one from the other.
You can read more of Em’s work on her twitter @emponcia