Chanel Did It First
The Simpsons' fashion sense has been on point since the '90s.
When esteemed critic Tim Blanks crowned “The Simpsons” x Balenciaga as “Fashion’s Favourite-Ever Collaboration,” he was referring to how Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia and Simpsons creator Matt Groening were able to achieve the near impossible: Make super-serious “fashion people” smile.
“I definitely felt like there’d been some kind of realignment in the cosmos, Mercury in retrograde be damned,” writes Blanks. He continues to explain how the unexpected partnership happened. Gvasalia remains adamantly against the idea of traditional fashion shows, and he’s been watching the show since he was 10 years old—arguably when it was still in its first-five-season prime. His partner Loïck even has a Homer Simpson tattoo on his arm.
So Blanks reports that Gvasalia reached out to Groening saying: “My whole life depends on you guys, ‘The Simpsons’ inspired me to be who I am.”
Groening responded with: “OK, we get what you guys do conceptually.” Gvasalia said having Groening understand the concept was more important than totally nailing the fashion part. The result is a 10-minute mini-episode/short film that is an objectively good episode of The Simpsons.
It may not reach the critically-acclaimed heights of those first few seasons, after which the show has been called “Zombie Simpsons,” but its depictions of each family member ring true to their original appeal. Homer is not simply a bumbling idiot, but a well-meaning husband who genuinely wants to do something special for his wife, and hilarity ensues. Marge is an avatar for the disgruntled suburban housewife, who may have had other plans for her life but feels somewhat resigned to her routine that feels like a prison some days.
Her flipping through fashion magazines and wistfully writing “Someday…” under a Balenciaga ad, as well as her sentiment about wearing a €19,000 being the most magical 30 minutes of her life echoes her love affair with another luxury label: Chanel.
Originally aired on February 4, 1996, “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield” sees the Simpson clan heading to the Ogdenville mall to buy a replacement TV. While there, Marge finds a pink Chanel suit marked down from $2,800 to $90. Of course now, those prices seem insane compared to how much Chanel and luxury brands currently cost…
The pink suit itself appears to be part of Chanel’s Collection 28, which came out around 1991, so even timing-wise it’s plausible it might have ended up in a thrift shop when Marge found hers. There was even a vintage one floating around the internet pretty recently.
Marge begins wearing the Chanel suit around town, catching the attention of an old rich classmate named Evelyn, and starts going out to the country club with other high-class socialites. The pink suit becomes a bit of a joke to the group, who think Marge has no other clothes.
“Chanel just seemed like perfect choice for Marge. Timeless, elegant, plus you can’t help but have that brief thought of splattered brain matter,” says Jennifer Crittenden, the Simpsons writer who wrote the episode, in an interview with GARAGE.
So what ends up happening is Marge takes to altering the suit herself, giving it different looks like a vest and shorts combo, but eventually ends up ruining her prized Chanel fit because of the pressure of well…fitting in.
“Marge’s passion for Chanel isn’t just about the suit itself, but about attaining the ease of lifestyle that the suit represents,” writes Emma Specter in GARAGE. “Whether it’s a longing to attend the opera or a desperate desire to appear Chanel-worthy to her country club coven, watching Marge want is painful.”
Indeed, in the climax of the episode Marge ends up buying full-price Chanel drip for $3,300 to wear it to a ceremony, only to realize how snobby she’s become and ends up ditching the club to enjoy Krusty Burger with her family.
In an about-face, what Balenciaga brings to the table is celebrating what Marge represents. “This is exactly the kind of woman I want to reach,” proclaims a Simpson-fied Demna Gvasalia in the episode.
Surely, the transformative power of fashion as exhibited in “Scenes from A Class Struggle In Springfield” might have had a subliminal impact on why the Balenciaga collaboration rang equally as true.