Demna Gvasalia was never shy of bold statements: in 2016 he proclaimed that his plan as the head of underground label Vetements was to disrupt the fashion system. Now it’s evident that he has succeeded. Born in Soviet Georgia, Gvasalia lived in Ukraine and Russia before moving to Germany with his family (alongside his brother Guram, his faithful CEO). Having gained valuable experience working for Maison Martin Margiela and Louis Vuitton, he started Vetements with a group of friends as a subversive joke — showing in a dingy Parisian gay club, casting said friends as the models.
What he did not expect was that this would eventually land him a job as the head of Balenciaga, at the very top of the system he resented so much. Gvasalia’s work today is analysed, discussed and debated, and still polarises opinions. Whether a capitalist cynic or a visionary, he has changed the way we look at fashion in the broader context of contemporary culture. To celebrate his meteoric rise in the industry, we look at ten things which will never be the same in the post-Gvasalia world.
If you find yourself at fashion week anytime soon, turn around a try to count how many people you spot wearing an oversized hoodie under a trench coat or a leather jacket. Through Gvasalia’s work, a formerly “street” garment was elevated to a rank of a sought-after fashion staple.
Putting Georgia on the fashion map
Thanks to Gvasalia’s new status as fashion royalty both buyers and fashion press are suddenly intrigued by his mysterious home country in the Caucasus and its new talents. The new crop of Georgian fashion talents is on the rise, and they’re definitely looking up to Gvasalia.
Never thought you’d like Juicy Couture velour tracksuits and over-the-knee boots? Now you do.
The fashion calendar
One of Demna and Guram Gvasalia’s major changes has been revolutionising the fashion week schedule. Vetements shows mens and womens collections at the same time with pieces available for sale a month later instead of the traditional 6 months. Burberry and Tom Ford have followed suit in altering the show schedules.
The Vetements FW 2017 collection was inspired by stereotypes. From punk to secretary to rich heiress to office clerk, the crowd is not too different to the one you’d see on a morning commute. It’s not the first time Gvasalia has played with the aesthetic of the ordinary: in the past he’s also used German police uniform and T-shirts from souvenir kiosks. He knows the devil is in the day-to-day details, all around us.
“This is just a product”
Glasalia’s approach to the garments he creates has always been as a product to be bought and sold. This might seem cynical or self-indulgent but it has taught his rivals that all the consumer really wants is your trademark sweatshirt, trench coat or jeans, recreated season after season, rather than an artistic vision created from scratch every 6 months.
With his work at Balenciaga, Gvasalia changed the way luxury and tradition are perceived in the fashion industry. Orthopaedic-looking sneakers, huge puffer jackets and fetish-inspired elastic tights and stiletto boots is not what we would expect from an established fashion house, but as long as the consumer is never bored, it seems to be working.
A huge part of Gvasalia’s magic is his crew — an extended family of designers, stylists, photographers, musicians and party kids. There is a strong sense of camaraderie: they work together, party together, create together, and every fashion kid would like to belong to the clique.
Logos have been Gvasalia’a trademark from the beginning: his witty “bootlegs” range from Champion to Bernie Sanders to 80s heavy metal band merchandise. He’s proved that there is nothing a consumer loves more than the game of real and fake.
Text: Anastasiia Fedorova
Top video: Vetements FW 17/18