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Crocs with heels and deepfake audiences: the Balenciaga imps are back at it again.

For Balenciaga, it’s their way or the runway. If you follow their Instagram (duh, of course you do!) then you’ll have clocked that they have zero followers, zero comments and zero words in their captions, just a purely visual feed of whatever the hell they’re getting off on at that moment.

Their eye-soaking prices are immutable, a take-it-or-leave-it approach to ready-to-wear that sees you having to shell out close to three grand for a bathrobe. It’s no wonder Christian Dior once called their founder ‘the master of us all’: they pull the strings when it comes to the finer things.

At the helm of their Paris-based mothership is creative genius Demna Gvasalia. Previously at Vetements, the ones that made that DHL shirt (and dressed Billie Eilish in our original shoot), he’s overseen a new era at the brand, tapping into the zeitgeist of digital fashion, elevated streetwear and futuristic silhouettes with a revival of haute couture. A lot of things are Balenciaga: those shoes that look like socks, as Cardi B once had it; or the bio-organic looking City bag, still sold today. But whatever it is, it’s instantly recognisable as Balenciaga, like a Triple S on a packed tube carriage.

This week, the impishness at the heart of what they do came back in full force. It kicked off with their SS22 collection, full of outrageously oversized all-black looks, bags that literally looked like they’d been blowing around a Tesco carpark and a bit of The Simpsons thrown in for good measure. The first bit of mindfuckery? The return to their Balencigucci crossover, seeing them ‘hack’ Gucci’s monogram via swapping the logo of their bags and belts. Like all successful looks, it deserved a second, third, fourth glance, melting the boundaries between reality and unreality.

There was something more wild than the looks, though. You know the audience dressed in all-black and holding their phones aloft? Yeah, so it turns out they weren’t actually there. Using deepfake technology, the entire mob of ‘clones’ was computer-generated and simulated, a comment on our many replicas and replications across the digital world. As soon as you find out, it paints the whole show with an unsettling, arm-itching uncanniness, elevating the futuristic feel of the pieces and leaving you feeling a little like you’re being watched.

Just a day later, Balenciaga was back, this time fully unveiling the Crocs collab they’d teased in the show. Three years ago, they joined forces on a platform Croc which, by all measures, was relatively practical. Now, though, they’ve added a stiletto heel of all things to the amphibious-green shoe, rendering the most practical kicks of all time absolutely horrific to wear for hundreds of quid.

This is the kind of move that would usually make us very angry indeed. But, err, it’s Balenciaga? For us, they’ve got immunity in everything they do: one brand needs to fuck with us all and push the boundaries, and we’re quite happy for it to be our baes at Bal. Over a century since Dior gave his two cents, they’re still jacks of all trades, masters of all. We’re looking forward to whatever they do next, whatever the hell that might be: even if our bank cards, sadly, are less thrilled.

Press play on Balenciaga SS22 below now.

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