The Show’s the Thing: Creativity, Emotion, and Experimentation on the Spring 2022 Runways

Mykki Blanco and co. at Marni Photo: Acielle / Style du Monde Being back in

Mykki Blanco and co. at Marni

Photo: Acielle / Style du Monde

Being back in the room again, to me it seemed that rising above the runway throng required emotion and experimentation. Even better if the two went hand-in-hand, as they did at Francesco Risso’s captivating Marni show in Milan, which combined audience participation (he dressed everyone who agreed in upcycled archive pieces), entertainment (Mykki Blanco read poetry, and Szela was accompanied by a heavenly chorus on an original Dev Hynes song), and a cast that reflected the multiplicity of the real world. And the fashion? It looked like the fruit of thoughtful labor, not factory-sealed corporate product. Risso said his idea “was about going back to the practice of what we do, which is making clothes for people, one to one.”

Paris’s prize for a runway rethink goes to Balenciaga, where the red carpet arrivals line was the show. Inside at the Théâtre du Chatelet, we watched as Cardi B, Lewis Hamilton, and Isabelle Huppert, side-by-side with members of the Balenciaga studio, vamped for the cameras under the tents outside. The show’s mastermind, creative director Demna Gvasalia, reprised the masked look he wore to the Costume Institute ball back in New York, prompting my colleague Luke Leitch, always quick with a pun, to dub the production the “Meta Gala.” And that wasn’t all. Once Gvasalia and co. had taken their seats we watched the premiere of a mini Simpsons episode, in which the Balenciaga atelier descends on Springfield for another fashion show, this one starring Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and the baby, plus all the locals. Vogue’s own Anna Wintour makes a cameo. “It’s more like a music or movie business, in the way you can convey things,” Gvasalia said of his work these days. “I like exploring these borders.” Fashion, as a rule, underestimates the power of humor. But not him.

Another thing that the industry has gotten wrong for too long: its insistence on exclusivity. Olivier Rousteing’s 6,000-person audience at Balmain was mostly clients and fans, and their wild cheers for Precious Lee and Alva Claire were a lesson in thinking beyond the industry’s narrow definition of aspirational. As Eugenie Trochu, the new editorial content lead at Paris Vogue, told me, Olivier is “representative of the new way of thinking in the fashion world: to connect to your audience, your followers, and to be more open.”