Balenciaga Reimagines the Fashion Show with Digital Artist Jon Rafman

An immersive digital presentation in Paris looks to solve the dilemma of the contemporary fashion show.

Fashion, a business predicated on how we present ourselves to the world, is now grappling with how we imagine ourselves in the new digital reality. The industry has had to embrace this digital consciousness quickly, crafting sights and scenes explicitly devised to tap into our desire to snap, post, share, go viral. A new generation of designers are working to conquer this psyche, none more masterfully than Demna Gvasalia, the creative genius behind the fashion collections Vetements and Balenciaga.

For the recent spring-summer 2019 Balenciaga show in Paris, Gvasalia approached Jon Rafman, a digital artist whose immersive work has referenced video games, virtual realities, and Google’s Street View mapping project. Presenting the collection inside a cylindrical, LED screen-paneled tunnel, viewers confronted a Blue Screen of Death that slowly dissolved into digitally-rendered liquids. The visually startling journey continued to reveal alien landscapes, calamitous ecosystems, and techno-fetishistic civilizations on the brink of collapse. Only a laser-sharp “neo-tailored” collection—for both men and women, and featuring silhouettes that utilize experimental 3-D molding techniques—could stand up to such a powerful, immersive backdrop. Appropriately, Rafman calls it “The Ride Never Ends.”

The collaborative design, featuring site-specific music created by BFRND, was effectively an immersive video installation, an all-encompassing virtual dreamscape that transported viewers inside the artist’s digital mind. Instead of waiting for the viewers to disseminate the collection, Balenciaga reimagined the fashion show by placing the viewers directly inside the landscape. As Gvasalia told Vogue, “Fashion shows are for transporting people, otherwise there’s no point. It was like working on a movie, getting people into another reality, so it stays as a memory.”

Check out the full video of Rafman’s work for the Balenciaga ready-to-wear show in Paris below.

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