Homer Simpson Was Made for Fashion

Clapping, murmuring, cameras snapping, and dubious music: these are the sounds of a traditional fashion show. Laughter bursts? These are more uncommon.

Several were heard last Saturday night, rolling around the 19th-century Parisian auditorium where Cristóbal Balenciaga’s renowned and storied house eschewed the regular catwalk in favour of a special 10-minute episode of “The Simpsons.”

It was a year-long surprise, the outcome of a sometimes-grueling partnership between two exacting creative forces famed for their attention to detail. It’s been seen nearly five million times on YouTube so far.

Homer writes to Balenciaga for Marge’s birthday (“Dear Balun, Balloon, Baleen, Balenciaga-ga,” he says as he struggles to pronounce the famous fashion name), stating that his wife has always desired to possess something from the company.

He requests the cheapest item, which the Balenciaga team sees as “simply one of those American gags nobody gets” and delivers him a 19,000-euro outfit. Marge returns the outfit with a message that says she’ll “always remember those 30 minutes of feeling just a bit special.”

Back in Europe, Demna Gvasalia, artistic director of Balenciaga, calls the note “the saddest thing I’ve ever heard, and I grew up in the Soviet Union.” This is exactly the type of woman I’m looking for!” He subsequently travels to Springfield and decides to “rescue” the “fashionably challenged” by inviting them to model his garments in Paris, claiming that he wants “the world to see genuine people in my show.”
The ten minutes are jam-packed with Easter eggs for “The Simpsons” and Balenciaga lovers alike. When given the option of an outfit, Ned Flanders chooses a frock to wear on a private Balenciaga jet with landing gear that resembles the brand’s famed sock sneakers.

The partnership began in April 2020, when Mr. Gvasalia emailed “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening about collaborating.
Mr. Gvasalia, 40, who was born in Georgia and grew up watching the programme, said the idea struck him during the first lockdown of 2020. He has a tendency for incorporating Balenciaga into popular culture: under his leadership, the brand has cooperated with other American phenomena such as Crocs and Fortnite.
“I always admired the tongue-in-cheek comedy, the romanticism, and the wonderful naiveness of it,” he remarked of “The Simpsons.”

“The Simpsons” executive producer and writer Al Jean remarked that when he first heard about the Balenciaga project in January, “my response was, ‘What’s Balenciaga?'” He looked up answers on Wikipedia.

His original presentation to Balenciaga had a similar concept to the one they eventually went with — Marge’s birthday wish — but diverged when Mr. Gvasalia’s character decided that the brand’s next show would be hosted in Springfield. When the Balenciaga plane lands, the models are not permitted to enter the United States because they are too skinny and lovely. Springfield’s citizens are cast as models, its nuclear power station serves as a runway, and the spirit of Mr. Balenciaga appears.

Mr. Jean stated that Balenciaga preferred that Springfield be moved to Paris. From there, the screenplay was reworked and changed until two days before the Paris premiere, to the point where the writers joked about “Draft 52 of the Balenciaga script.”

Mr. Gvasalia made specific contributions to the script, according to Mr. Jean. For instance, the episode concludes with Homer embracing Marge and singing “La Mer” to her on a post-show party boat on the Seine. But Mr. Gvasalia wanted one more joke, so he had a Frenchman smoking a cigar set fire to Homer’s jacket. Mr. Jean then proposed that Anna Wintour, who had sat in the front row of the fashion presentation, use pricey cologne to put out the fire with champagne.

“She said, ‘Please don’t have me do that,’ therefore Demna was born,” Mr. Jean explained. (Ms. Wintour, on the other hand, agreed of the use of her likeness but declined to voice her character, he claimed.) And what about the prior remark about Mr. Gvasalia growing raised in the Soviet Union? Mr. Gvasalia requested that it be reintroduced after the “Simpsons” staff decided to cut it.

He also requested that the colour of a tear dropped by Ms. Wintour while watching Marge model be changed the day before the show. The tear was too light to read onscreen unless it was a darker blue. Mr. Jean and David Silverman, the director, both agreed.

While the relationship was unexpected due to its novelty, the firms share a similar attitude. They enjoy self-referentiality, defying presentation standards (airing an episode with live animation; transforming a red carpet into a runway show without informing anyone), and bridging the highbrow and lowbrow. Mr. Jean referred to Mr. Gvasalia as a “great collaborator,” while Mr. Gvasalia hailed the experience as “the highest degree of teamwork” and “a dream come true.”

“I had no idea how difficult it is to create a 10-minute-long episode, so big respect,” he remarked.
He will let the critics discuss whether the act was meant to confront fashion’s self-seriousness or the public’s conceptions of luxury — to bring Balenciaga to the suburban masses or to bring the suburban masses to Balenciaga.
What did he want to gain from this? “A smile and a lot of fun.”