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Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia makes his Balenciaga debut

With ‘a translation, not a reiteration’ of Cristobal Balenciaga’s signatures, the Georgian designer imbued the storied house with the attitude of Vetements

This morning in Paris, Vetements’ designer and new artistic director of Balenciaga, Demna Gvasila, made his debut for the storied French house. Showing just days after his last collection for Vetements, the Georgian-born designer and his collaborators – like Dazed contributing fashion editor Lotta Volkova – took over a TV studio to "reimagine" the signature architecture of founder Cristobal Balenciaga. 

Described as “a series of couture attitudes transforming a modern, utilitarian wardrobe”, the collection was shown on a mixture of street cast faces and models, and sought to answer the question of how the legacy of Balenciaga could be placed in a new context. It began with couture-style suiting in black and grey, before spinning into structured puffa and ski jackets, lurex knitwear, and the kind of more-is-more, vintage-inspired floral dresses that have become a staple at Vetements. Accessories consisted of secretary glasses with supersized chains, clompy platform-heeled boots and colourful leather shoppers. 

“The most Balenciaga was the architecture of those garments, and most me was the choice of garments...we tried to construct the attitude into the garments themselves” – Demna Gvasalia

Backstage, Gvasalia spoke of “challenging” himself, and described the line between his own signatures and those taken from the house’s archives. “The most Balenciaga was the architecture of those garments, and most me was the choice of garments,” he said. “The wardrobe approach – we tried to construct the attitude into the garments themselves. Normally for me, attitude is one of the key elements”. On the topic of what luxury means today. his words resonated with current conversations spinning around the pace of fashion. “It is time. I think time is the most luxurious thing in the world. And youth. Youth is freedom.”

“For us, it was something that was still very true to us and what we love, a mix of something that's more polished and elegant,” explained Volkova, who styled the show. “And it's all about construction, of course. Demna works quite a lot with construction at Vetements but in a different kind of way and with a different kind of attitude, which is more polished, more elegant and more sophisticated. It came quite naturally actually. And we felt straight away that this was what we wanted it to be.”

The show notes described the collection as “a translation, not a reiteration. A new chapter.” With the refined silhouettes and elevated craftsmanship of a couture house colliding with the attitude of what has become the industry’s most buzzed-about brand, that couldn’t be more true. At the end of the show, Gvasalia did not take a bow, instead choosing to keep the focus on the clothes. “I'm a very complex person and I think what says ‘hi’ is the work that we do – that is the most important element in fashion,” he explained. In an industry going through something of an identity crisis, Gvasalia’s words felt powerfully resonant.