Clapping, whispering, cameras snapping, questionable music: These are the sounds of a traditional vogue present. Bursts of laughter? These are much less frequent.
But a number of had 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 typically grueling collaboration between two exacting inventive entities identified 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 (“Pricey Balun, Balloon, Baleen, Balenciaga-ga,” he says as he struggles to pronounce the well-known vogue identify) for Marge’s birthday, explaining that his spouse has at all times needed to personal one thing by the model.
He asks for the most cost effective merchandise, which the Balenciaga staff interprets as “simply a type of American gags no person will get” and sends him a costume that prices 19,000 euros. After sporting it briefly, Marge returns the costume 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 form of lady 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.”
The ten minutes are filled with 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 costume 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 e 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 in the course of the first lockdown of 2020. He has a penchant for inserting Balenciaga into mass-market developments: Below his route, 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 government producer and author of “The Simpsons,” mentioned that when he realized of the Balenciaga challenge in January, “my response was, ‘What’s Balenciaga?’” He turned to Wikipedia for solutions.
His first pitch to Balenciaga had an analogous 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 develop into the fashions, their nuclear plant is the runway, and the ghost of Balenciaga makes an look.
However Balenciaga most well-liked 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 exhibiting.
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 occasion boat on the Seine. However Gvasalia needed one closing joke, so he requested that Homer’s jacket be set on hearth 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 fireplace with costly Champagne, which Homer tries to drink as an alternative.
“She mentioned, ‘Please don’t have me try this,’ so it grew to become Demna,” Jean mentioned. (Wintour in any other case authorized 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” staff 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 had been positively our match by way of, to the final element, ensuring every little thing 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 largest 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” staff 15 seems 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 easy.
“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 must be sporting and the way the lighting must be hitting the catwalk.
The script additionally needed to seize the actual absurdity of the posh vogue 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 collection about Halston, who was an awesome fan of Balenciaga, helped him perceive the evergreen extreme tradition of vogue.
The supporting characters are additionally based mostly on actual folks and animals, together with Gvasalia’s husband, Loïk Gomez; their two canine; the chief inventive officer, Martina Tiefenthaler (who voiced herself); and employees 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 speak him into taking part in himself, however he didn’t need to,” Jean mentioned. He felt that was according to Gvasalia’s current choice to totally obscure his face and physique throughout public appearances, creating confusion amongst observers as as to if it was actually him.
When requested why he needed 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 needed to create an iconic visible story.”
Whereas the novelty of the collaboration made it really feel stunning, the manufacturers share an analogous ethos. They’ve an appreciation for self-referentiality, breaking the foundations of presentation (airing an episode with stay animation; turning a purple carpet right into a runway present with out telling anybody) and bridging the intellectual and lowbrow. Jean referred to as Gvasalia an “wonderful collaborator,” and Gvasalia described the expertise as “the best degree of collaboration” and “a dream come true.”
“I didn’t notice how complicated it’s to create a 10-minute-long episode, so big respect to that,” he mentioned.
Whether or not the act was meant to problem vogue’s self-seriousness or the general public’s notions of luxurious — to convey Balenciaga to the suburban plenty or to convey 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.