Mel Ottenberg Goes Backstage at Balenciaga’s Emotional Fall/Winter Show
For their Fall/Winter 2022 collection, Balenciaga created a powerful blizzard in an ominous, snow globe-like setting in lieu of a traditional runway show. There, models drenched in spandex and hoodies trekked on ice through a treacherous snowstorm while editors and celebrities looked on behind the safety of glass panels. It wasn’t only commentary on the role of the fashion industry in the current climate catastrophe. Upon arrival, show-goers were gifted t-shirts in the colors of the Ukranian flag, the birthplace of Demna, the mononymous creative director of the brand, who dedicated the collection “to fearlessness, to resistance, and to the victory of love and peace,” in the war-torn nation. Throughout the show, models trudged through the elements in the brand’s trademark spandex bodysuits and oversized outerwear, many of them lugging leather totes made to resemble the trash bags filled with the personal belongings of Ukranian refugees during the recent crisis. Even the show’s closing looks mimicked the colors of the country’s flag, a powerful nod in solidarity with the nation.
Our editor-in-chief, Mel Ottenberg, put it simply, “That was the best show I’ve ever been to. At one point I was wiping tears from my eyes and so was the dude next to me.” Below, Ottenberg speaks to Bella Hadid, Demna, Eliza Douglas, Fish Fiorucci, and Anitta backstage at Balenciaga.
MEL OTTENBERG: How does it feel to have walked in the best fashion show I’ve ever seen in my entire life?
BELLA HADID: To walk it was incredible. To be a part of it was a dream come true for me, but I think it had such an emotional impact—because of Demna and everything he’s been through as a refugee. It’s really important to me to work with houses that I stand behind.
OTTENBERG: Thank you for speaking up for what you believe in, even if it gets you in trouble. It’s really worth it. Especially with show like this that is so amazing—it’s important to remember how cool it is to care.
HADID: Yeah. I think Demna and I have that in common. We are not scared of anything, and we both talk about the things that we believe in, starting with human rights. Fashion is nothing without us being able to support human rights. So I thank him for everything he’s done, and I know that we’ll continue to do everything we can together to help the world.
MEL OTTENBERG: I cried like 5 times.
DEMNA: I’m happy that people cried. I think that’s what we have to do right now. We have to let anger and pain out, it’s important.
MEL OTTENBERG: How does it feel to have walked the best finale of a fashion show that I’ve ever been to?
ELIZA DOUGLAS: It feels great. It feels like more of an accomplishment than usual because it was such extreme conditions and it was physically challenging.
OTTENBERG: Was it freezing out there with all that snow?
DOUGLAS: Probably but I didn’t notice because I was just trying to stay up. My look was changed at the last minute so I never got to practice in this outfit. But it was amazing.
MEL OTTENBERG: Miss Fish Fierce did you just walk the mother fucking show?
FISH FIORUCCI: I just walked the mother fucking show. Balenciaga baby, you already know.
OTTENBERG: And that outfit.
FIORUCCI: All the way from Texas baby.
OTTENBERG: Do you have anything to say?
FIORUCCI: Dudes, if you don’t know how to walk in heels, don’t bother coming next time.
MEL OTTENBERG: So this is your first fashion week ever, and you were at the fucking Balenciaga show.
ANITTA: Yes. It was magnificent, spectacular. That was beyond creative, that was an experience. You could feel it, you could smell it. It was a lot—in a good way.
OTTENBERG: It was devastating, and also just fucking fab. Demna is on another level. He’s so able to talk about this fucked up crazy world that we are in. You see it, and you’re emotional, and you’re gagging, and you’re fucked up.
ANITTA: What he wrote, what he did here, it needs no explanation. I have no words.