Balenciaga have made headlines this week with the appointment of their new Creative Director Demna Gvasalia. Here’s everything you need to know about Alexander Wang’s replacement.

In stark contrast to the seemingly never-ending game of musical chairs that takes place among high fashion’s circle of celebrity designers, news broke yesterday that Balenciaga would be replacing the recently-departed Alexander Wang with Demna Gvasalia – a low-key designer known for his work with underground streetwear label Vetements. So you’re not left in the dark, we’ve prepared a quick primer on Balenciaga’s new Creative Director – who will no doubt find himself under the harsh glare of the fashion press’s spotlight over the next few months.

image: vogue.com

The Basics

Demna Gvasalia is a 32-year-old Georgian-born, Paris-based designer who studied at Antwerp’s legendary Royal Academy of Fine Arts (whose alumni include Martin Margiela, Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester and Kriss Van Assche, FYI), before going on to design for Louis Vuitton and Maison Margiela. He now heads up the much talked-about design collective Vetements, who have made waves in the Parisian scene (despite being based in Dusseldorf, if their website is to be believed) thanks to their innovative approach to the high/low aesthetic, and who were shortlisted for the 2015 LVMH Prize.

His Brand Vetements are Making Waves

Vetements is a group of seven designers who create high-end streetwear with deconstructionist sensibilities. Only four seasons deep, the label has won industry acclaim far and wide – including Kanye West, who has worn the brand’s black metal-inspired hoodie on multiple occasions. In stark contrast to the glitz and glamor of Paris’s luxury houses, Vetements’ (simply French for “clothes”) designers initially remained anonymous due to contractual agreements with other brands, with Gvasalia being appointed as the label’s spokesman and his brother Guram handling the commercial side of things. Vetements’ low-key, under-the-radar sensibilities are a protest against what they perceive to be the brand-obsessed hysteria of high fashion.

image: vogue.com

He’s Martin Margiela’s “Spiritual Son”

Much like Martin Margiela – who Gvasalia has been compared to on numerous occasions – Vetements’ aesthetic plays heavily with deconstruction, rebuilding garments and subverting their initial purpose. Previous collections have featured sweaters with flippable hoods that could be worn both forwards and backwards, evening dresses made from cheap velour and heavy-duty belts used as chokers. Parisian fashion headhunter Agnès Barret – Margiela’s former Collections Director – described Gvasalia as the legendary Belgian’s “spiritual son,” although it must be pointed out that the Georgian only worked at the maison in the period following its founder’s departure.

image: vogue.com

He Has His Friends Walk in His Shows

Gvasalia and Margiela’s similarities aren’t just aesthetic; the Georgian shares the Belgian’s fondness for hosting shows in gritty, unglamorous locations; Vetements’ Spring/Summer 2016 show was hosted in a Chinese restaurant in Paris’s Chinetown Belleville, while the previous season’s was in a notorious underground sex club. The label chooses to let its circle of friends walk in its shows rather than the usual high-profile models; last season’s featured Gosha Rubchinskiy and Dazed stylist Lotta Volkova.

mage: vogue.com

It’s a Big Move for Balenciaga

It’s a bold move for Balenciaga to appoint such a low-key, left-field designer as their new creative director. While sales for the luxury French label remain strong, perhaps it’s a decision from their parent group Kering to inject some fresh blood into the storied label – much as they did when they appointed a young Alexander Wang three years ago. Gvasalia will still remain a part of the Vetements collective, however, telling The New York Times “I’ve already started working on next season for Vetements…This is a label and a project that I am committed to for a lifetime.”

Check out Vetements’ Fall/Winter 2015 collection for further reading.

Words by Alec Leach
Freelance Writer/Editor/Consultant

Alec Leach grew up in Brighton, England, but now lives in Berlin

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