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 have been heard final Saturday night time, rolling across the Nineteenth-century Parisian theater the place the good 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 12 months within the making, and the results of a typically grueling collaboration between two exacting artistic 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 title) for Marge’s birthday, explaining that his spouse has all the time needed 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 one will get” and sends him a costume that prices 19,000 euros. After sporting it briefly, Marge returns the costume with a be aware saying she’ll “all the time bear in mind these half-hour of feeling just a bit particular.”
Again in Europe, the Balenciaga inventive director Demna Gvasalia declares her be aware “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 needs “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 alternative of outfit; Lisa at first acknowledges that strolling a runway is “superficial” however then enjoys it immensely.
The collaboration started in April 2020, when Mr. Gvasalia despatched the “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening an electronic mail about working collectively.
Mr. Gvasalia, 40, who was born in Georgia and watched the present when he was rising up, stated the concept got here to him through the first lockdown of 2020. He has a penchant for inserting Balenciaga into mass-market traits: Beneath his course, the model has collaborated with different American sensations, like Crocs and Fortnite.
About “The Simpsons,” he stated, “I all the time liked the tongue-in-cheek humor, the romance and the charming naïveness of it.”
Al Jean, an govt producer and author of “The Simpsons,” stated that when he discovered 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 identical framing to the one they ended up going with — Marge’s birthday want — however diverged with Mr. Gvasalia’s character deciding that the model’s subsequent present could be held in Springfield. When the Balenciaga airplane lands there, its fashions aren’t allowed into america as a result of they’re too skinny and delightful. Springfield’s residents change into the fashions, their nuclear plant is the runway, and the ghost of Mr. Balenciaga makes an look.
However Balenciaga most popular that Springfield be dropped at Paris, Mr. Jean stated. 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.
Mr. Gvasalia made particular contributions to the script, Mr. Jean stated. 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 Mr. Gvasalia needed one closing joke, so he requested that Homer’s jacket be set on fireplace by a Frenchman smoking a cigar. Mr. Jean then instructed 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 stated, ‘Please don’t have me do this,’ so it turned Demna,” Mr. Jean stated. (Ms. Wintour in any other case accepted of her likeness getting used however declined to voice her character, he stated.) And that earlier line about Mr. Gvasalia rising up within the Soviet Union? The “Simpsons” workforce had determined to chop it, however Mr. Gvasalia requested for it to be reinstated.
He additionally requested, the day earlier than the present, to alter the colour of a tear Ms. Wintour sheds whereas watching Marge mannequin. The tear was too gentle, and it wouldn’t learn onscreen until it was a darker blue. Mr. Jean and the director David Silverman agreed.
“They have been undoubtedly our match when it comes to, to the final element, ensuring all the things is ideal,” Mr. Jean stated. “The animation crew, that is the toughest factor they’ve needed to do since ‘The Simpsons Film.’”
Mr. Silverman, who directed that 2007 movie, stated the largest problem was getting the “accuracy wanted within the clothes,” which concerned ingenious post-animation results to seize the distinct textures and motion of, for instance, Marge’s runway look: a gold metallic ball robe.
Balenciaga despatched the “Simpsons” workforce 15 appears 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,” Mr. Silverman stated. “You’re translating the look of actual clothes, actual designs on these characters that aren’t precisely human proportions.”
Mr. Silverman, who joked-but-not-really that that is how he spent his summer time trip, studied runway footage to determine what the viewers needs to be sporting and the way the lighting needs to 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. Mr. Jean stated that along with the crash course in Balenciaga earlier within the 12 months, watching the Netflix collection about Halston, who was an important 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 Mr. Gvasalia’s husband, Loïk Gomez; their two canine; 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 considered one of Mr. Gvasalia’s favourite scenes within the episode, he stated: “It simply makes me so completely happy each time I watch it.”
As for Mr. Gvasalia’s voice, “we needed to attempt to speak him into taking part in himself, however he didn’t need to,” Mr. Jean stated. He felt that was in step with Mr. Gvasalia’s current determination 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 needed to align Balenciaga with “The Simpsons” and whether or not he felt the manufacturers had any commonalities, Mr. Gvasalia stated 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 shocking, the manufacturers share an identical ethos. They’ve an appreciation for self-referentiality, breaking the foundations of presentation (airing an episode with stay animation; turning a crimson carpet right into a runway present with out telling anybody) and bridging the intellectual and lowbrow. Mr. Jean referred to as Mr. Gvasalia an “wonderful collaborator,” and Mr. Gvasalia described the expertise as “the very best stage of collaboration” and “a dream come true.”
“I didn’t notice how advanced it’s to create a 10-minute-long episode, so big respect to that,” he stated.
Whether or not the act was meant to problem vogue’s self-seriousness or the general public’s notions of luxurious — to deliver Balenciaga to the suburban plenty or to deliver the suburban plenty to Balenciaga — is one thing he’ll let the critics debate.
What did he need out of this? “A smile and a very good dose of enjoyable.”