It’s almost shocking when you realise that Demna’s stratospheric ascent as creative director at the Parisian house started six years ago, back in 2015. Shocking, in part, because of the game of musical chairs that we know fashion to be, but mostly because it’s difficult to remember a time when Balenciaga wasn’t synonymous with Demna.
DEMNA’S COMMUNITY IN CONVERSATION
In the years since, he’s taken us on a journey with heartwarming family appearances on the runway, mind blowing sets that have jumped from giant graffiti-scrawled fake mountains to doomsday-flooded cinemas, and there’s even been a Balenciaga video game. Not to mention, the industry shaking ‘hacking’ of Gucci at the start of this year, an idea we’ve seen replicated once already since, and no doubt will do again in the near future.
2021 was somehow, Balenciaga even bigger and even better – perhaps magnanimously as a salve for 2020 – with the two runway outings at polar opposite ends of the scale. In July, the designer brought Couture to Balenciaga for the first time since it’s founder Cristòbal, (53 years ago). An exceptionally refined presentation held in the house’s salon; a heady dose of tailoring (the sharpest, boxy silhouettes we’ve seen to date),Cristòbal-level glamour, and classic ironic Demnaisms –done in the Couture way.
Then in October, an about-turn, the runway this time a faux red carpet that featured actual famous faces – Eliot Page, Off- set, and Isabelle Huppert – among the new season’s looks on model’s posing as celebrities, as well as the unwitting show guests, who also became part of the circus. Demna was there too, always in on the joke, though his all-black, visage-ob- scuring look (the final of the collection) could have hidden anybody.
But, wait, there’s more! Inside the Théâtre du Châtelet, the cherry on top of a decadent sundae: Balenciaga does The Simpsons. featuring all of Springfield’s favourites as well as Simpsonified versions of Demna, Loïk AKA BFRND, and Anna Wintour. An instant classic, it’s pure delight for the viewer, none more than Gvasalia, a longtime fan and the connection that ended up sparking his marriage.
It’s a discovery which upon finding feels almost like a secret you weren’t meant to uncover, but a privilege nonetheless with the designer being notoriously reticent – as is their prerogative – eschewing the end of show runway peek and wave, letting the work speak for itself, until fashion’s insatiable pack of journalists ambush him with recording devices backstage.
That’s not to suggest, there isn’t a tight-knit community of friends, family, muses, and collaborators, who have grown with him over the years. A handpicked selection appears here, each in conversation with Demna. From deeper connections such as Mark Borthwick, close collaborator and the photographer behind his first Balenciaga campaign and longtime fit and muse model Yuri Escudie. There’s also artist and model Eliza Douglas – who first opened Demna’s womenswear debut and has appeared on the Balenciaga runway in every show since, most notably at the SS22 where she was the only model in all 44 looks, thanks to a mind-bending deepfake.
There are newer connections too in the form of actress and director Michaela Coel – the brains behind the brilliant I May Destroy You – who accompanied the designer to this year’s Met Ball, alongside Kim Kardashian and Rihanna.
With free rein to ask him anything, they are naturally inquisitive in the way that only those who know you best are, in the process, letting us peer into the world of Demna Gvasalia.
Eliza Douglas - If everything related to work was paused for the next month, what would you do/ how would you spend your time?
Demna - I would go on a road trip in Iceland and just be in the present moment in nature. Nothing is more powerful and enlightening than that.