Earlier this year, as the AW22 fashion season came to a close, Russia invaded Ukraine, meaning, once again, one of the industry’s biggest outings had played out in the shadows of a global crisis. As showgoers tied blue and yellow ribbons in their hair, a burden fell onto the shoulders of the industry’s most prestigious houses to make some kind of meaningful statement. Though his intentions were – perhaps unfairly – scrutinised, it was Demna who made the most potent expression of solidarity, channelling his own experience as a refugee into one of the most rousing fashion shows in recent history.
In the early 1990s, when he was just 12 years old, the designer’s family was forced to flee Georgia after their house was bombed in the Abkhaz-Georgian conflict. On his AW22 runway, weary models were lumbered with calfskin bags, as they skulled their way through a tormentous snow globe structure. Though mainstream media coverage has petered-out over the past five months, Russia continues to wage war on Ukraine, and Demna has now been announced as an ambassador for United24, a fundraising platform put in place by Volodymyr Zelensky. “It’s crucial that we keep the world’s focus on Ukraine to help rebuild our country,” the country’s president said, thanking the designer for raising the campaign’s profile.
As part of the partnership, the label will release a graphic t-shirt emblazoned with an enormous QR code, linking passers-by to United24′s Rebuild Ukraine fund, which is committed to restoring social and physical infrastructure in the country, including hospitals, schools and roads. Where so many of these kinds of initiatives offer a paltry percentage of profits towards the cause, Balenciaga has said that 100 per cent of the net sales of the shirt will benefit the fund. “I am honoured to become a United24 ambassador. I know very well and feel the pain that Ukrainians are going through. I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can help Ukraine and all the refugees who want to return home. That is why I decided to focus on the humanitarian direction ‘Ukraine Recovery’. And the special sweatshirt that we created at Balenciaga will be a kind of message of support for Ukraine,” Demna explained.