Santiago Sierra creates mud runway for Balenciaga during Paris Fashion Week

Spanish artist Santiago Sierra carved a runway through mounds of mud from a peat bog for Balenciaga's Spring Summer 2023 show in Paris.

The artist filled the Parc des Expositions de Villepinte convention centre on the outskirts of Paris with 275 cubic metres of mud for the show, which took place on 2 October during Paris Fashion Week.

Image of the mud-filled runway at the Balenciaga show
Santiago Sierra and Sub filled the Balenciaga runway with mud

Designed and built by Sierra and architecture studio Sub, the set was created as a large pit of mud, which saw layers of boggy earth piled in mounds and troughs across the floor of the convention centre.

Sierra is a Spanish Madrid-based artist best known for performance and installation art that typically centres on social inequalities and poverty.

Image of the mud runway at the Balenciaga fashion show
It used mud from a peat bog in France

In 2005, Sierra created House in Mud – an installation at the Kestnergesellschaft art museum in Hanover where two rooms of the museum were filled with 400 tonnes of mud and peat.

Much like Demna's work at Balenciaga, the installation was a commentary on topical issues, specifically worker and labour rights, and responded to a government unemployment-relief program in the 1930s that led to the building of an artificial lake in Hanover, Germany.

Image of mounds of mud at Balenciaga's Spring Summer 2023 show
275 cubic metres of mud filled a convention centre on the outskirts of Paris

At the show, a path was channelled into the mud-caked floor around a sunken pit at the centre of the space, marking a runway for models to trek through in Balenciaga's Spring Summer 2023 collection.

As models walked through the mud-covered set, footprints were left in the earthy substance for the next model to follow.

Image of the carved out runway at the Balenciaga show
A runway was carved into the mud

Mud splashed and covered the skin of models and luxury clothing and accessories, bearing comparison with Sierra's House in Mud where visitors were invited to walk around the space ultimately covering their shoes and clothes in mud.

"The set of this show is a metaphor for digging for truth and being down to earth," said Demna in a statement before the show.

"Let us let everyone be anyone and make love not war."

"Putting luxury fashion into the box of polished, exclusive and visually expensive is limited and pretty old school," Demna continued.

"Individualism in fashion is downgraded to pseudo trends dictated by a post in stories of some celebrity of the moment."

Image of the mud-filled Balenciaga set without seats
The installation was a recreation of Sierra's House in Mud

A custom-made scent created by Norweigian scent researcher and artist Sissel Tolaas, was pumped into the space and according to Vogue was said to smell like the "raw odeur of decomposition".

Destroyed and graffiti-covered hoodies paraded down the mud-flung runway between models carrying lifelike child dolls and models adorned in rhinestoned dresses.

Image of mud-covered Balenciaga clothing
Clothes, shoes and skin became covered in the earth as models walked the runway

The show's closing look, a floor-length leather dress and matching gloves, was made up of pieces of the brand's city bag that were stitched and patched together.

After the show, Balenciaga explained that the peat bog mud will be collected by its supplier, horticultural company Florentaise, and reused across landscaping and horticultural projects.

A model is pictured walking the mud runway in clothes made from leather bags
The show took place during Paris Fashion Week

Also taking place during Paris Fashion Week, artist Eva Jospin created a cardboard installation for Dior's Spring Summer 2023 show – carving architectural grottos from layers of corrugated cardboard.

The photography is courtesy of Balenciaga.