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A luxury fashion brand held its runway show in a video game post-apocalypse

A fashion writer and video game writer discuss

Woman with white face paint and black streaks of makeup Image: Balenciaga

Fashion week looks very different in 2020. Unable to meet in person for fashion shows, brands are taking new approaches in showcasing their designs. Chanel debuted its collection at a fashion show that had a single guest — Kristen Stewart. Gucci held an event called GucciFest, a seven-day film festival held online. And Balenciaga? It held a fashion show-esque experience in a video game, Afterworld: The Age of Tomorrow.

The game takes place in 2031, in different locations around the near-future world: a Balenciaga store, a post-apocalyptic city, and a forest rave. Models are placed around the world — some dancing, others looking at their phones — wearing different pieces of the Balenciaga fall 2021 collection.

Video games and fashion have become increasingly entwined over the past few years, whether that’s through video game skins and armor or company collaborations on luxury goods. And now, here’s another. I got together over Slack with Emilia Petrarca, fashion news writer from The Cut, to talk about the game with someone who really knows the fashion world.

Here’s a snippet, but you can read the full chat over at The Cut.

Emilia Petrarca: That’s so interesting, and also is in keeping with Demna’s past shows in person — where you feel sort of uneasy, and you’re not sure if it’s heaven or hell, or both, or a joke or dead serious. I definitely felt rushed, which is also very “fashion week” — running around cities trying to see as many clothes as you can, and never REALLY interacting with them.

Nicole Carpenter: Huh! I love hearing about how this aligns with the designer’s history. I absolutely felt uneasy about it. The first level, specifically, in that creepy Balenciaga store — a place that’s not inherently scary but feels creepy because of how it’s presented. Horror video games, at least in the last decade, do this sort of thing a lot.

Person in store wearing a long black dress Image: Balenciaga

Emilia: That’s so funny, I walked into the store and thought, Oh yes, the Balenciaga store. They kinda look that creepy in real life …

Nicole: Ha!

Emilia: In terms of Easter eggs, I thought that all the fake advertisements around the city in Zone 2 for the “Rejuvenation Project” that “Brings life back to earth” to be funny/sad at the same time. I tried to read the graffiti more closely in Zone 3. All I could really make out was “EDF,” which presumably stands for Environmental Defense Fund. And then I saw posters for a “T-Party,” which could mean something but also nothing.

Nicole: The artificial bees one really got me. I saw that huge billboard in-game and got as close as I could to it to read the text. I imagined it was going to be about saving the bee population, but laughed when I read that it was actually about cybernetic bees working in conjunction with real bees to pollinate. It feels really absurd, but also a useful and sad way to mitigate the devastating effects of a declining bee population, at least in this imaginary near-future world.

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