Case in point here is a round-up of thoughts on Gvasalia’s work:
“Ikea bags in leather and platform crocs that cost an arm and a leg? That’s insane.”
“Demna really gets internet culture and he is a marketing genius.
“He is not a designer, he ignores the rich history and codes of the house of Balenciaga.”
“Demna has more in common with the ethos of Cristóbal Balenciaga, disturbing the fashion system, maintaining the exclusivity of their product as well as sharing a similar approach to the way they think about clothing.”
The opinions are polarising, but it comes with the territory when you sit in the upper echelon of the fashion industry.
Addressing those opinions are not on Demna's agenda. Instead, he took the opportunity of Balenciaga’s first co-ed show to filter the codes of the house into his unified vision. The goal was to further the vision that was started by Cristóbal Balenciaga without a literal revisit of the archives of the house and with a twist of Demna-ness.
First, the tailoring that featured a basque waist that creates an hourglass silhouette, a signature of Cristóbal. Using 3D printing technology, the bodies of the models were first scanned, then moulds in lightweight foam were made. Fabrics such as tweed, crushed velvet and wool were then bounded on to the mould.
This technique renders the tailoring lighter, sharper and allows for a more pronounced basque waist.
It wouldn't be a Demna collection without the appearance of prints, slogans and ironic twist of corporate logos, a trend that swept across the entire fashion industry thanks to the Georgian fashion designer.
Two graphic prints from the collection stood out. The first was a French hotline phone number that's plastered across a plaid shirt.
“The hotline was to convey the idea of communication. It's a never-ending hotline, but we gathered a lot of information about people who are interested in the collection,” says Demna.
“I want to do something that engages and makes a difference, whatever that difference is, and the World Food Programme was the perfect match."
The second builds on the spring/summer 2018 collection of slogans of empowerment, with a more practical application—partnering with the World Food Programme for a series of hoodies, T-shirts, caps and belted bags that carry the humanitarian agency’s logo.
But Balenciaga did more than just slap a logo on its merchandise; it also made a donation of €250,000 and is donating 10 percent of the retail price of all the items from the autumn/winter 2018 collection to the cause.
When asked about it, Demna says: “I want to do something that engages and makes a difference, whatever that difference is, and the World Food Programme was the perfect match. It was a really special project for me to do because for the first time I thought that fashion could be used as more than just clothes to cover your body and be fashionable.”
The highlight of the collection are the multi-layered coats that brings to mind the scene from the US hit sitcom, Friends, where Joey wore all of Chandler’s clothes.
“It's all one piece. When we started the coats, in the way that looks like you are wearing your entire wardrobe, over each other, cause it's really cold, but it's actually one piece. Actually, the challenge was to start with something very simple, the first layer of the body, and to go as far as I could imagine going, in terms of volume at Balenciaga. In the end, the shapes you see are reminiscent of what is in the archives of the house."
"Even though I used all the Demna pieces (laughs), there were hoodies in it, there were parkas in it, but this was my way of showing the new Balenciaga, and how I see it, as being defined by my tenure here,” says Demna.
Love it or hate it, opinions probably matter very little in the mind of Demna.
When asked what he thought about as he designed the collection, Demna says: "The spirit of Balenciaga, it's something that I keep in mind all the time."
This story was originally published in the August issue of Esquire Singapore.