Gone are the days that fashion and gamers belonged to different crowds. Balenciaga's Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow game – aka its Fall 21 fashion show – has arrived. The video game x fashion crossover lets you peruse the Maison’s FW21 collection but beyond that, it tells us a lot about the future of fashion.
Recently, Balenciaga has been setting itself apart with innovative new ways of presenting collections. But this game shatters even the massive digital screen ceiling of last year. Afterworld, which launched online today can be played by literally everyone, making luxury fashion a lot more democratic. Anyone can choose their fighter from a lineup of models and enter 2031 in a quest to conquer the virtual world and the dystopian future, as Balenciaga itself seems to be doing.
This time Balenciaga proved once and for all that it is ahead of the game (literally). By granting everyone access to the "show," Balenciaga breaks out of the outmoded idea that luxury should be restricted to an elite few and instead positions it as something people can resonate and interact with regardless of who they are and where they fall in the fashion hierarchy. That's the meaning of luxury today.
Demna Gvasalia's work has always been about the consumer. Fetching inspiration from the plain sights of the everyday, whether it's staging fashion shows in McDonald's or teaming up with DHL. Afterworld is another anthropological observation by the designer, this time confronting life post-Covid and mastering fashion's move to virtuality. But the game goes beyond sheer novelty to show the new collection, it is championing content – the clothes are an added perk. And even those are catered to the meme-age, whether it's knight armor heels or PS5 merch.
For Balenciaga under the Creative Direction of Gvasalia knows what move to make and in front of what audience, pivoting the luxury fashion house into becoming a reputable media brand. More than making couture, it's about making people talk. The thing is, Balenciaga is no longer competing with just Louis Vuitton or Dior anymore, it's playing in a different ballpark altogether with the likes of Travis Scott and Netflix. Gvasalia’s aesthetic has transformed Balenciaga from one of several stars in fashion’s high firmament into a universe of its own.
Your journey through the Afterworld decked out in haute couture captures the essential gesture of luxury, which many continue to miss: fashion is an escape.