Clapping, whispering, cameras snapping, questionable music: These are the sounds of a traditional style present. Bursts of laughter? These are much less frequent.
But a number of have been heard Oct. 2, rolling across the Nineteenth-century Parisian theater the place the nice and storied home of Cristóbal Balenciaga skipped the standard catwalk and screened a particular 10-minute episode of “The Simpsons.”
It was a shock greater than a yr within the making, and the results of a generally grueling collaboration between two exacting artistic entities recognized for his or her consideration to element. Up to now it has been seen greater than 5 million instances on YouTube.
Within the episode, Homer writes to Balenciaga (“Expensive Balun, Balloon, Baleen, Balenciaga-ga,” he says as he struggles to pronounce the well-known style identify) for Marge’s birthday, explaining that his spouse has at all times wished to personal one thing by the model.
He asks for the most cost effective merchandise, which the Balenciaga workforce interprets as “simply a kind of American gags no person will get” and sends him a gown that prices 19,000 euros. After sporting it briefly, Marge returns the gown with a word saying she’ll “at all times keep in mind these half-hour of feeling just a bit particular.”
Again in Europe, Balenciaga inventive director Demna Gvasalia declares her word “the saddest factor I’ve ever heard, and I grew up within the Soviet Union. That is precisely the type of girl I need to attain!” He then travels to Springfield and decides to “rescue” the “style-deprived” by inviting them to mannequin his garments in Paris, explaining that he desires “the world to see actual folks in my present.”
Balenciaga despatched the “Simpsons” workforce 15 appears to be like to select from for the ultimate present, all based mostly on designs from the final 5 years. (Supply: Reuters/Fox)
The ten minutes are full of Easter eggs for die-hard followers of each “The Simpsons” and Balenciaga. A personal Balenciaga jet has touchdown gear that appears just like the model’s well-known sock sneakers; Waylon Smithers chooses a gown to put on when given his selection of outfit; Lisa at first acknowledges that strolling a runway is “superficial” however then enjoys it immensely.
The collaboration started in April 2020, when Gvasalia despatched “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening an electronic mail about working collectively.
Gvasalia, 40, who was born in Georgia and watched the present when he was rising up, mentioned the concept got here to him through the first lockdown of 2020. He has a penchant for inserting Balenciaga into mass-market developments: Underneath his path, the model has collaborated with different American sensations, like Crocs and Fortnite.
About “The Simpsons,” he mentioned, “I at all times liked the tongue-in-cheek humor, the romance and the charming naiveness of it.”
Al Jean, an govt producer and author of “The Simpsons,” mentioned that when he discovered of the Balenciaga venture in January, “my response was, ‘What’s Balenciaga?’” He turned to Wikipedia for solutions.
His first pitch to Balenciaga had the same framing to the one they ended up going with — Marge’s birthday want — however diverged with Gvasalia’s character deciding that the model’s subsequent present can be held in Springfield. When the Balenciaga airplane lands there, its fashions aren’t allowed into the US as a result of they’re too skinny and exquisite. Springfield’s residents change into the fashions, their nuclear plant is the runway, and the ghost of Balenciaga makes an look.
However Balenciaga most popular that Springfield be delivered to Paris, Jean mentioned. From there, the story was revised and tweaked — to the purpose that the writers joked about “Draft 52 of the Balenciaga script” — up till two days earlier than the Paris displaying.
Gvasalia made particular contributions to the script, Jean mentioned. For instance, the episode ends with Homer embracing and singing “La Mer” to Marge on a post-show get together boat on the Seine. However Gvasalia wished one remaining joke, so he requested that Homer’s jacket be set on fireplace by a Frenchman smoking a cigar. Jean then prompt that Anna Wintour, who had appeared within the entrance row of the style present, attempt to put out the hearth with costly Champagne, which Homer tries to drink as a substitute.
“She mentioned, ‘Please don’t have me try this,’ so it grew to become Demna,” Jean mentioned. (Wintour in any other case accepted of her likeness getting used however declined to voice her character, he mentioned.) And that earlier line about Gvasalia rising up within the Soviet Union? The “Simpsons” workforce had determined to chop it, however Gvasalia requested for it to be reinstated.
He additionally requested, the day earlier than the present, to alter the colour of a tear Wintour sheds whereas watching Marge mannequin. The tear was too gentle, and it wouldn’t learn on-screen until it was a darker blue. Jean and director David Silverman agreed.
“They have been positively our match when it comes to, to the final element, ensuring all the things is ideal,” Jean mentioned. “The animation crew, that is the toughest factor they’ve needed to do since ‘The Simpsons Film.’”
Silverman, who directed that 2007 movie, mentioned the most important problem was getting the “accuracy wanted within the clothes,” which concerned creative post-animation results to seize the distinct textures and motion of, for instance, Marge’s runway look: a gold metallic ballgown.
Balenciaga despatched the “Simpsons” workforce 15 appears to be like to select from for the ultimate present, all based mostly on designs from the final 5 years. However placing them on the our bodies of those universally recognizable cartoon characters wasn’t so simple.
“It was difficult for us, capturing that stability of caricature and the integrity of the clothes,” Silverman mentioned. “You’re translating the look of actual clothes, actual designs on these characters that aren’t precisely human proportions.”
Silverman, who joked-but-not-really that that is how he spent his summer season trip, studied runway footage to determine what the viewers ought to be sporting and the way the lighting ought to be hitting the catwalk.
The script additionally needed to seize the actual absurdity of the luxurious style world and Balenciaga’s stature in that world — one thing that may’t be absorbed on Wikipedia. Jean mentioned that along with the crash course in Balenciaga earlier within the yr, watching the Netflix sequence about Halston, who was an incredible fan of Balenciaga, helped him perceive the evergreen extreme tradition of style.
The supporting characters are additionally based mostly on actual folks and animals, together with Gvasalia’s husband, Loïk Gomez; their two canines; the chief artistic officer, Martina Tiefenthaler (who voiced herself); and staff from Balenciaga’s atelier who’re ending the gathering on the airplane whereas singing, “formidable, formidable.”
That is certainly one of Gvasalia’s favourite scenes within the episode, he mentioned: “It simply makes me so glad each time I watch it.”
As for Gvasalia’s voice, “we needed to attempt to discuss him into taking part in himself, however he didn’t need to,” Jean mentioned. He felt that was in step with Gvasalia’s latest resolution to totally obscure his face and physique throughout public appearances, creating confusion amongst observers as as to whether it was actually him.
When requested why he wished to align Balenciaga with “The Simpsons” and whether or not he felt the manufacturers had any commonalities, Gvasalia mentioned that “it’s extra private to me.”
“I didn’t need to align something or make sense of something. I simply wished to create an iconic visible story.”
Whereas the novelty of the collaboration made it really feel stunning, the manufacturers share the same ethos. They’ve an appreciation for self-referentiality, breaking the foundations of presentation (airing an episode with dwell animation; turning a pink carpet right into a runway present with out telling anybody) and bridging the intellectual and lowbrow. Jean known as Gvasalia an “glorious collaborator,” and Gvasalia described the expertise as “the very best degree of collaboration” and “a dream come true.”
“I didn’t understand how advanced it’s to create a 10-minute-long episode, so enormous respect to that,” he mentioned.
Whether or not the act was meant to problem style’s self-seriousness or the general public’s notions of luxurious — to carry Balenciaga to the suburban plenty or to carry the suburban plenty to Balenciaga — is one thing he’ll let the critics debate.
What did he need out of this? “A smile and an excellent dose of enjoyable.”
This text initially appeared in The New York Instances.
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