paris fashion week

Mel Ottenberg Gets Into the Mud at the Balenciaga SS23 Show

Balenciaga SS23

Images Courtesy of Balenciaga.

Okay, I got a voice note about the show because I just think the Balenciaga SS23 show was the sickest, hardest thing. It’s hard to top last season when it had the giant circle and the snow, because it was the moment of the Ukraine war starting. It was about displacement and refugees. It was just so powerful and amazing, and it was a real show, show, show. I mean, I hate to use the word, but it’s just tea. Demna’s always tea. The whole thing about this hot, apocalyptic, Ryan Trecartin freak out of show—oh god, I’m so fucked up by it.

I love The Road by Cormac McCarthy, it’s one of my favorite books ever. And as an American watching America dissolve, wither, and die—or just keep moving—who knows? The rest is still unwritten. It’s a book that I always come back to and think about because it’s amazing. It’s about the apocalypse and it’s a post-apocalyptic view of the world, post there being countries or whatever. There is a movie, but I’ve never seen the movie because I just prefer to see the book in my head, as opposed to whatever some filmmaker created.

Anyway, I feel like Demna really showed what it would be like to walk for the House of McCarthy today—the House of Cormac McCarthy in fashion—in a really disgusting world of mud and bad energy, and how make something really positive and beautiful out of it. Because it’s not a bad vibe, it’s a great vibe. The clothes were really, really good. I mean, there were so many details that you could really see. From the frayed edges on the hems to amazing corsetry, and amazing silhouettes. There was lot of sportswear. It was a real departure from tailoring, although there was great tailoring in the show, it was really about the sweatsuits, the morphed things. It’s a jean that’s also a sweatpant. There were really great bags, the arm sleeve box thing and the potato chip bags, which were also very The Road, having a purse made out of a bag of potato chips.

Balenciaga SS23

Gary [Gill] and Inge [Gronard] did the most amazing thing. I think there’s a Fight Club vibe going on, clearly. There was a Broken Glamour vibe. Oh my god, there was an Uma Thurman Kill Bill look that made me really excited, the Kill Bill jacket. Just all these references that were done so well. Demna makes me so excited about fashion.  I see people on the Interview Instagram writing “This is fashion?” It’s like, fuck yeah, this is fucking fashion. What the fuck did you think was fashion? This is great. It’s incredible. Ugh, it’s so good.

These looks were really layered, they were not easy things but they were still just so fun. It was really great to go backstage and be able to play with the babies, play with the bags, talk to all the models. The models were super fab. I’m exhausted, but I’ll definitely go to the party tonight because I have to. I loved Amelia Gray being the corpse bride of the show. She looked incredible. God, the finale look, that leather look. I’m loving all the leather this season, I love that tough idea. She was really walking for the House of McCarthy, she was really walking that road. She was really walking Demna’s road into the future. I loved it.

Balenciaga SS23

Oh, and I loved the platform shoes. Oh my god, they were so hot. The big platform boots and these platform sandals. And the really amazing tattered dresses. It’s just what’s up. It really made me happy to see the greatest living designer—I feel—look at the current state of events and make something so scary and weird and dark and colorful and bright and funny. “Ha-ha-ha.” It’s so funny, the whole thing is so funny. Yet it is also serious, and the world that we live in is a serious, bad place. The future is really unknown. I’m just babbling, but I really, really liked that show.—MEL OTTENBERG




MEL OTTENBERG: We’re here at the Balenciaga SS23 show, what’s your name?


OTTENBERG: Beka. What is your Instagram handle?

GVISHIANI: @Stylenotcom. And also @Beka.Gvishiani, my personal.

OTTENBERG: Oh, I don’t follow that. I will.

GVISHIANI: You should. 

MEL OTTENBERG: I’m going to. It would be my pleasure.

GVISHIANI: The one that you told me yesterday. You still have that one?

OTTENBERG: @powertoool? No, it got shut down. 

GVISHIANI: Do you have still the other small separate Instagram?

OTTENBERG: I have a separate Instagram, which I did not tell you about. It’s just a small amount of people on that.

GVISHIANI: But you are revealing everything every day to me.

OTTENBERG: I’m revealing a little more to you every day because I like you and because you’re such a good investigative journalist of the modern world, who’s a new superstar. Congrats on being inducted into the Business of Fashion Hall of Fame.

GVISHIANI: Exactly. Like Coco Chanel used to say, “I don’t do fashion. I am fashion.”

OTTENBERG: I’m not saying that, but, I do believe that about you to be 100 percent true. That’s hot. Beka and I just met yesterday. I’ve told him all my secrets. Doja just—Oh. But if I tell you this thing, then you’re going to use it.

GVISHIANI: No, no, no.

OTTENBERG: So she told me that she did that makeup today without knowing the show makeup. It’s like something’s in the air. I think fashion’s really interesting right now. What do you think?

GVISHIANI: She just woke up in the morning and felt that it would be some—


OTTENBERG: This is Wren [L’Wren Wilson].

GVISHIANI: Hi, I’m Beka.

WILSON: Hi. Nice to meet you.

OTTENBERG: Wren walked in the Balenciaga show. I was looking for you in the look. Did you walk?

WILSON: With the puckered lip. Yeah.

OTTENBERG: Why did you change? You should have been out there waiting to be discovered like everyone else, sweetie.

WILSON: I know. But did you not see my lips?

OTTENBERG: No. Show me a picture.

WILSON: I’ll show you a picture. It’s a very crazy vibe. Amelia Gray said, “I need to send a photo to my mom because it looks just like her.”

Balenciaga SS23

OTTENBERG: Oh my god.

WILSON: Isn’t it so good?

OTTENBERG: It’s incredible.

WILSON: That was the look. It was around the end.

OTTENBERG: Oh my god. Yes.

WILSON: Alien fantasy. 

OTTENBERG: It’s like a sunburnt, angry alien fantasy.

WILSON: I know.


WILSON: It’s so good. Lisa Rinna could never.

OTTENBERG: Lisa Rinna could never. But she should after seeing you walk after Amelia Gray, who was the bride in the Balenciaga show today. 

WILSON: Which was incredible. She was stunning.

OTTENBERG: Kanye opened. I had the best seat. I didn’t get Kanye walking out because I was just like, oh, I just want to put my phone down and enjoy. Unfortunately, you can’t do that at a Balenciaga show because every moment is magique.

GVISHIANI: Do you have your favorite Balenciaga show?

OTTENBERG: Well, the Balenciaga show last season in the snow was my favorite fashion show I’ve ever been to in my whole life.


OTTENBERG: Oh, easy. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Because of the sheer power of the moment in time and war and refugees. My friend had escaped Moscow and was on some bus to Budapest to try to escape to get to France while the show was going on. So I felt very emotional about it. But it was also cool to have this sad concept and then go really hard with commerce, selling sneakers and sunglasses and jeans and hoodies and fucking blah, blah, blah and make it fashion and hardcore. I never felt that anything talked to culture like that. The darkness of billionaire empires and the sadness of refugees and making it cunty.

GVISHIANI: Make it Balenciaga.

OTTENBERG: I will say, I love this show because the clothes are so good. I’m really excited about the clothes this time.

GVISHIANI: That was one of the shows where the clothes actually spoke. Because last season—okay, first we could not see anything. This one, I want to see the showroom tomorrow, how they look actually.

OTTENBERG: I’ll go to the showroom because it’s my favorite brand. But I saw everything. I’ve touched everything. We’re backstage after the show. They keep the models around. Get backstage, you can see all the clothes. You can take a picture. It’s not controlled because it’s so strong and 360. But it’s really fucking cool. So I’ve already held the baby, I’ve put on the arm bag, the clothes this time are the hottest. So I would say that of all the Balenciaga shows I’ve ever been to, my very favorite was Winter ‘22, but I might say this is a close second. Yeah. What about you?

Balenciaga SS23

GVISHIANI: I have my favorite Balenciaga show, which is probably the most simple one in terms of set up. It’s their second men’s collection. Fall 2017 when the Bernie Sanders campaign logo was on the hoodie, on a shirt, on a polo. When they had the most weird fitted pants but they looked so cool. Those pieces I am still looking for. Those bombers were the base that Demna still really develops. Those shapes and the coats and the bigger Balenciaga campaign logo. That logo is still here. The only one that he still keeps. I love that. The Parliament one was super cool. The blue one. The parliament.

OTTENBERG: Incredible. Wait. Gary. This is Gary Gill. Hey, congrats. This is Beka. This is Gary, one of my favorite hair artists. He did the show. Dude, you are a fucking piece of American trash out there. You guys. That’s why I said to the kid from Finland in the pink outfit, “How can you get American trash that hard?” It’s so hot. I loved it.

GARY GILL: Good, good, good.

OTTENBERG: What’s your favorite hair look in the show?

GILL: I liked that green thing, which has all patches of color on it.

OTTENBERG: I just took a big video of that. My favorites were the green hair and the just simple, perfect mohawk. I was really interested in that too. How many looks were there?

Balenciaga's SS23

GILL: 75.

OTTENBERG: I wanted 25 more. My only complaint about the show is that I wanted 100 looks. [Laughs]



MEL OTTENBERG: All right, I’m here with the Balenciaga Bride, Amelia Gray. Amelia Gray, the mud bride.

AMELIA GRAY: Hi, I’m Amelia Gray, and I just walked Balenciaga, and I guess I was the mud bride.

OTTENBERG: So now she’s in regular clothes, but she’s still got her piercings on, I guess.

GRAY: And she’s still got her Balenci on. 

OTTENBERG: Okay. What’s up? What’s up? Well, tell me a little bit about the moment.

GRAY: Well, what’s funny is, Friday night I was frantically trying to get into the show. I was texting my agent, how do I sit front row at Balenciaga? They said, babe, “I don’t know.” In that exact moment, I got a phone call from my Paris agent saying, “Hi, Amelia. I’m not sure if you know,” or he said, “As you might know…” And I’m thinking, oh shit, I’ve spent all day testing here and makeup at Vivienne Westwood, they’ve cut me. They don’t want me anymore. He goes, “As you might know, you’re having a fitting for Balenciaga.” I started hysterically crying and I said, “How would I know that?” Then I go to the showroom. No casting. There’s this beautiful dress waiting for me and that was that. This is my dream show. Balenciaga is who I am. Balenciaga has shaped me and formed me into a gothic queen and has made me feel more confident and more like a woman than ever. I’m so grateful and I can’t believe this is happening. I got off the runway and I immediately started crying, and I’m so grateful. Thank you, Denma. Thank you to the whole team. Thank you, Kanye. Just thank you to everyone who’s ever believed in me. I’m going to cry again.

OTTENBERG: Babe, I’d cry too.

GRAY: Fuck!



MEL OTTENBERG: Yo, I’ve been looking all over for you to say, “what the fuck, man?”  Hey, this is Inge. She’s the OG, blah, blah, blah, everything, and does the makeup for Balenciaga. So—

GRONARD: From the beginning when I was starting.

OTTENBERG: And with Vetements no?

GRONARD: I started with him at Vetements, but I knew him already for 25 years. It’s a long time ago that we met at the Academia in Antwerp. And then he moved to Paris. He worked for Louis Vuitton. He called me for Vetements.


GRONARD: I took my bags, went to Paris, I didn’t even see the references and voila. That’s the beginning of the story.

OTTENBERG: History was made. 75 looks, my only complaint about the show is that I wanted 25 more looks. I seriously,  it’s so riveting. It’s so hot. No? Do you have a favorite Balenciaga show?

GRONARD: I think every show I see, it’s always a surprise. It’s a thing that I really want to see from them. And for me, the most important thing about Balenciaga shows is the emotion behind it.

OTTENBERG: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

GRONARD: And the clothes, of course. But the thing is, the emotion that they bring in a show always is the smell. Is the music. It’s the casting. It’s the way they walk. It’s everything. Most important thing.

OTTENBERG: So hardcore.

GRONARD: It’s for me more than only fashion.

OTTENBERG: Absolutely.

GRONARD: Which is very important for me.

OTTENBERG: A hundred percent. Wait, there’s no lip story— if it’s not bloody, it’s just natural. Right?

GRONARD: No. The thing is, there were three teams today. So that one you say there was a team that was the bruising with piercings and everything, it was Alexis Stone.


GRONARD: Then you had a team that did the Fight Club that was Millenium FX. 


GRONARD: And then it was me with some eyeliners, a broken makeup. There were a few freckles coming out.

OTTENBERG: Okay, so, Fight Club was one of the references. Twisted.

GRONARD: Yeah, a little bit twisted. And also to give them a face that had lift already. Not like really flawless. So we kept the little pimples and everything.

OTTENBERG: Ah, cool. I’m into that.

GRONARD: Some redness we kept. That face had struggled. That body had struggled after the snow in the mat.

OTTENBERG: Life’s hard.

GRONARD: Life is hard. Always a message. But I think, which is really nice about some fashion things. It’s that also you give people dreams.

OTTENBERG: Absolutely.

GRONARD: And that’s our point. 

OTTENBERG: It’s good, man. You killed it. It’s so good to see you.