Balenciaga, Demna community in conversation

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Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia community in conversation

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.

Eliza Douglas - Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia
Eliza Douglas by Mark Borthwick
Eliza Douglas
Eliza - When you accepted the job at Balenciaga, how did you feel? Was it an easy decision to make? did you expect that it would be as well received as it was?
Demna - I was surprised that they chose me and I felt connected to the history of the brand. It was one of the easiest decisions I ever made because I felt and knew I was going to the place where I would have an opportunity to enjoy evolving my vision of fashion. I did not have any particular expectation of success, I just wanted to make clothes that would give people something more than just cover themselves up and keep warm. I knew it was about creating a unique attitude.
Eliza - If you had the power to be invisible, what is something you would like to do?
Demna - I felt invisible often in my life and I did not enjoy it, so if I had the power to be invisible I would certainly renounce it.
Eliza - Can you tell me what your childhood bedroom was like?
Demna - It was 2 meters by 3 meters room with a tiny little window with a bunkbed and tons of posters and drawings all over the walls. Also I drew on the walls directly since it was the only place in our home where I could do what I wanted.
Eliza - How is it for you when you see strangers out in the world wearing clothes you de- signed? Do you care about what kind of person wears your clothes?
Demna - I enjoy seeing anyone wearing the clothes I made but what I enjoy most is seeing people wearing clothes in the style that is personal to me and for which I had to fight for years for until it just became a common part of fashion as we know it today.
Eliza - Was there a distinct moment you remember first falling in love with Loik?
Demna - Looking into his eyes first time we met and having a feeling I knew him since forever.

Yuri Esqudie - Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia
Yuri Escudie photographs by Mark Borthwick
Yuri Escudie
Yuri - What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Demna - Saturday night, pizza and a trashy Netflix series with Loick and our dogs being lazy on the couch.
Yuri - Which living person do you most admire?
Demna - My mom.
Yuri -What is your current state of mind?
Demna - Freedom.
Yuri - What do you consider the most overrated ?
Demna - Social media and politics.
Yuri - What do you most value in your friends?
Demna - Loyalty.
Yuri -Who are your favorite writers?
Demna - Kanye.
Yuri -What is it that you most dislike?
Demna - Rules.
Yuri -What is your greatest regret?
Demna - None.
Mark Borthwick - Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia
Mark Borthwick on the cover Replica Man Issue 1, photographs by Bibi Borthwick
Mark Borthwick
Mark - Reflecting upon a conversation we had recently... you exclaimed joyfully how your medita- tion practice had changed your life. I’m personally aware how my own has gracefully evolved over the years and quietly seeped into enlightening the circumference of my world. I’m timelessly inspired how one inspires others – thus mirroring an awareness that manifests the core of one’s choices… Therefore … I would love you to share how it evolved thus transforms your daily routine…
Demna - I have discovered meditation in a desperate attempt to connect to my true self. It was not easy at first because I somehow expected to find myself in some sort of nirvana while meditating until I realised there was no right or wrong way of doing it and the expectations had no place in medita- tion. I realised how powerful it was to simply take time for myself and to bring myself outside of my thought-full mind and to connect to the deep consciousness within me. Appreciation, gratitude, self- love, the beauty of just being and doing nothing at all were things I discovered and that helped me shift not only my creative vision but my vision of life in general.
Mark - Whilst been aware of your timely influence - that creates a formidable difference I’m intimately inspired how your informing the next generation … for they to shall create a difference - As I feel them move through influence - out of whats know - Theres an exuberant shift taking place today Ie’ … Individual droppings of collection upon social media / NFT’s giving power back to the individual whilst dismantling a gallery system … etc Its obvious in the past one would rely upon the other yet todays youth has no need … since there creating there own …
How do you foresee these shifts in the paradigm … ?
Demna - I hate systems and rules and I think we have slowly entered the phase in human evolution in which many people start to question those systems and rules. The Big Change must happen so the world can become a better place if ever it is destined to become a better place at all. As humans we are obliged to at least try, even if it means failing, our responsibility and mission is to keep trying. And in order to succeed we need to stop being afraid. Once we loose the fear we will be able to shift things.
Mark - I believe there is no coincidence to what’s taking place presently and the grace of what you have put into place. Hence, I’m touched by what motivates you – reflecting how you’ve created a world unto your own. Therefore inspired by the simple question that heeds the weight of creation itself – i.e. Who are you? What am I? What do I wish for? And what changes may I aspire to inspire in you...
Demna - Love is the answer to all of that.
Demna Gvasalia - Balenciaga
Demna Photographs by Mark Borthwick
Michaela Coel
Michaela - If you could give advice to Denma, the 8-year-old from Georgia,
what would it be?
Demna - Do not listen to anyone telling you what to do and how to do it. The only thing
you should listen to is your heart, it will always bring you to the right places in life. And
never be afraid, because there is nothing to be afraid of. Be yourself, be different and love
yourself since this is the only way to be able to love others.

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