Balenciaga's Spring 2022 ready-to-wear presentation, titled “Clones” considers how our sense of reality is mediated through an increasingly filtered — perfected, polished, conformed, and photoshopped — lens.

To drive the message home, Balenciaga tapped artist Eliza Douglas (who you might recognize from most of their recent shows, as well as Burberry's chaotic SS21 presentation) to model all 44 looks for women and men. See for yourself below.

In the video directed by Quentin Deronzier, Douglas appears as a series of digital clones, some of which are deepfakes, or models with the artist's photogrammetry-captured and CG-scanned face digitally grafted on.

It's both a critique of fashion’s “hero” item-trend fixation and a perfect rejoinder to Gucci's recent Balenciaga-hacked "ARIA" collection. The “Gucciaga” collection mixed the codes of both houses. As Alessandro Michele explained, “Gucci becomes for me a hacking lab, made of incursions and metamorphoses ... I have plundered the nonconformist rigor of Demna Gvasalia and the sexual tension of Tom Ford.”

After the first collab at the Gucci show, Highsnobiety’s Christopher Morency wrote, “The collection will obtain grailed status for the simple reason of existing, and in the end — regardless of audience sentiment.”

In response, Balenciaga has interpreted Gucci’s recognizable signatures as Balenciaga products. Here, ironically, Gvasalia merges the house codes to explore and question ideas of authenticity, counterfeiting, and appropriation within the fashion industry.

“Yes, it’s an easy cash grab, a straightforward attempt to give the actual customers who buy into the two brands and who so many in the industry lift up their nose to exactly what they want,” notes Morency. “But don’t dismiss that what Gucci and Balenciaga have demonstrated” with both collections. Their second collaboration proves once again that, “marketing moments like these will create such a level of hysteria that in today’s hype-driven industry the efforts will transform into desirability.”

For example, an archival double-G diamond monogram design is transformed to consist of double-B logos in Gucci’s iconic tone-on-tone palette on a variety of leather goods and classic accessories. The line, which also includes limited-edition bags hand-tagged with “This Is Not a Gucci Bag,” will be in stores starting in November of 2021.

While the references to Gucci are thought-provoking and effective, it is a Balenciaga collection through and through —  complete with supersized silhouettes, homages to fast food, and even a sweatshirt featuring the Simpsons wearing pieces from Balenciaga's last season. Wrap coats recall a classic Balenciaga cocoon construction, and the brand's signature parka and puffer make a reappearance, as does a new signature, the tracksuit.

Elsewhere, tactical cargo pants transform into coveralls and cyber goth-style raver pants; skirts in denim are tricked out with metal hoops and studs, and straps.

Balenciaga Crocs 2.0, the second collaboration between the two brands, sees the classic clog made into pumps, boots, and platformed pool slides. Meanwhile, Trooper boots and Derbies receive thick-soled, square-toed, and angular on all sides. Runner sneakers, introduced in Winter 21, receive a cut-up aesthetic in the shape of a traditional running shoe.

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