Vetements designer Demna Gvasalia certainly wasn’t the conventional choice to take over creative direction at Balenciaga, but upon sitting down with François-Henri Pinault, CEO and chairman of the Kering conglomerate, it was clear that “Demna’s unique approach, nurtured by sociological observation, made him a natural fit,” said Pinault.
“The enthusiastic reactions to his first two runway collections for Balenciaga are confirmation of just how obvious the appointment was,” Pinault went on to say.
Nowadays, Gvasalia spends two-and-a-half days each week working on Vetements and two-and-a-half days each week working on Balenciaga. In a recent sit-down with Vogue, the 35-year-old Georgian fashion designer delved into just how he is changing the way Balenciaga operates.
“I wouldn’t say I’m trying to channel Mr. Balenciaga in any way,” Gvasalia begins. “But I’m trying to understand how he saw women. He really respected and loved them—I see that in the clothes, the way he approached the body. He liked to fit on models who were not perfect. He liked to work with reality, and flatter it. I’m trying to work with that.”
As affirmation of Demna’s goal, Alessandro Michele, Gucci’s creative director and another designer in the Kering Group who worked for years behind the scenes and sat front row at Gvasalia’s Balenciaga debut, revealed: “I like that he’s in search of a different kind of beauty, particularly in an industry that has always tried to define and dictate beauty in the past.”
In turn, Gvasalia’s castings come from clubs, Facebook, Instagram and everywhere else. When thinking back on a defining moment during his first fashion show with Balenciaga, Demna remembers fitting 31-year-old New York artist Eliza Douglas, also member of his extended Vetements family. When he asked her what she thought of the tailored skirt suit with rolled-forward shoulder line and padded hip, “she said, ‘I feel like I should be on the Forbes list.’ And I was like, ‘Voilà!’
Changes aren’t coming overnight at Balenciaga, however. “Vetements is like Parliament,” Gvasalia disclosed. “Everybody’s very outspoken and not afraid of sharing their opinion in a very brutal way. Here [at Balenciaga] it’s still a work in progress because the womenswear team is not used to this way. But they start to get there.”
For more on Demna and his new position at the European luxury fashion house, follow on over to Vogue.
- Photography: Willy Vanderperre