Balenciaga designer Demna Gvasalia: Regular scandals are part of his life

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Designer Demna Gvasalia is the master of scandal – but one shocker per season is part of Balenciaga

Demna Gvasalia

Demna Gvasalia is the creative director of Balenciaga

© Matt Crossick/ / Picture Alliance

Luxury label Balenciaga has been criticized for its current campaign. But one calculated scandal per season has always been part of the brand’s image.

Models trudging through mud at a fashion show, tattered sweaters for a mere 1,000 euros, run-down sneakers reminiscent of homeless people’s shoes. It can be said without a doubt that the fashion of the Balenciaga-creative director Demna Gvasalia has always been knitted with staged scandals. So it wouldn’t really come as a surprise if the 41-year-old designer, who was born in what was then the Soviet Union and grew up in Georgia, accepted the current headlines with approval.

But this time the wave of indignation exceeds the head-shaking of the past few years when the industry found it at least “cool”, maybe even “pioneering” when the Balenciaga team soberly overshot the mark. But now you went too far.

In the Christmas campaign, the French luxury house had children photographed with, among other things, teddy bears carrying SM paraphernalia. Suddenly the allegation of pedophilia was raised. Worldwide outrage ensured that Balenciaga completely campaign pulled out and apologized. Even Kim Kardashian, a close friend of Demna and ambassador for the Kering-owned brand, felt compelled to announce that she had to reconsider working with Balenciaga. As a mother of four children, she was “disgusted and outraged”.

Balenciaga: Kim Kardashian was ‘disgusted’ and ‘outraged’

The allegations hit a designer who is one of the most politically and socially committed creative people in the industry. Balenciaga partnered with the World Food Program in 2018 to draw attention to the current rise in global hunger and support global efforts to end it by 2030. Some of the proceeds from a collection were donated.

It was also Demna who was almost the only one who came up with one at the beginning of the Ukraine war stir exciting show positioned. He let models “escape” through the cold and snow. Gvasalia, who only had to leave his homeland with his mother in 1993 with bags, wanted to draw attention to the fates, because he himself “has not gotten over this trauma to this day”.

Since his appointment as creative director at Balenciaga seven years ago, Gvasalia has managed to revitalize the outdated couture house founded by Cristóbal Balenciaga in 1919. With his oversized silhouettes and a style inspired by youth culture looks, he managed to make Balenciaga one of the most successful and trendy brands. The mix of excellent cuts and sporty materials ensured that the kids buy hoodies with the brand logo and that an older clientele also likes Balenciaga dresses with a floral pattern because the brand has become all the rage.

Balenciaga: Even early campaigns were considered “morally questionable”.

Always in mind the motto of Demna’s brother Guram, with whom he founded the fashion brand Vetements in 2014: “mothers want to look like their daughters. But the daughters never like their mothers.” Demna’s supposed coolness was celebrated on social media. Balenciaga tried to outdo himself every season. When models, including Kanye West, had to wade through gray mud at the presentation for the coming summer in autumn, wrote for example, the respected critic Cathy Horyn that some productions are now “morally questionable”.

So now the bear photos. Perhaps the scandal was planned, but the response was underestimated. Balenciaga has been trying desperately to keep both the brand image and Demna’s reputation out of the firing line in recent days, trying to blame photographer Gabriele Galimberti.

He reacted promptly and said that he had only been asked to illuminate the scene on the fully assembled set and to implement the recordings in his own style. In fact, it is the rule with shootings that the creative director leaves nothing to chance and a team is only entrusted with the implementation of his wishes. For example, it is common for all luxury brands to clarify the appearance of the appetizers with the designer’s team in advance at events in the boutiques.

Gvasalia herself has been silent so far. He is currently working on the next haute couture collection, which will be shown in Paris in January. It will be interesting to see whether a staged scandal is as much a part of it as the zipper on a dress.

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