How is Demna changing fashion?
Demna Gvasalia, Creative Director of Balenciaga
Today’s casual wear will become formal wear only in the future. If the metaverse is the future, except for a few exceptional circumstances, wearing clothes, in reality, may disappear altogether. However, no matter how the situation unfolds, suits will gradually lose their place. In retrospect, there was a time when today’s suits were comfortable items. People had to change their clothes several times a day to suit the time and situation in those days. Modern society regards these actions as inefficient and unnecessary energy consumption, and most people don’t take any more discomfort. And the pandemic shortened the time people considered even ironing their shirts to be excessive in their lives. Faster than expected, people became accustomed to working with sweatshirts and hoodies. Eventually, society will drive the suit out of most realms. And will be replaced. After all, the next question is, what will be the new casual?
Balenciaga 2021 Couture Collection, Look38
Demna Gvasalia captured the above-mentioned social aspect with the revival of haute couture in Balenciaga. The image of a hoodie appearing in haute couture is more straightforward than the sentence “Combination of street and luxury”. Demna seems to explain that the clothes that even the atelier will make in the future are of this type. Not only that, but this haute couture also sends us another message. Jeans and hoodies are familiar to us. (So it was out of our expectation.) Whether or not we can put haute couture hoodies in the washing machine is another matter, but if you look at the image alone, it is clothes that will not feel objectionable in everyday life. Even if I wear it on the street, there seems to be no problem, and I’m not sure if I can think of Balenciaga when I see a person wearing it on the street like the picture. At the same time as the announcement, people left comments with anger and ridicule for the content on Balenciaga’s official Instagram account. However, this can suggest something more than a combination of street and luxury goods. The integration of street culture into luxury brands is utterly different from how luxury goods, especially couture, go out into the streets. For example, the possibility that someone in the absolute position of a ‘creative director’ could destroy the elitist fashion design that designs and conducts something unusual that most people do not understand. And the expectation that the person at the peak of that elitism might put it into practice. Already looking at the hoodie, people must have joked that I could design it too. People began to question the mysticism of haute couture. Of course, the presence of a hoodie at the Met Gala is another matter. Because privileges are not easily destroyed. However, it is a privilege to be able to collapse in an instant. Demna was already at the vanguard, regardless of his intentions.
Rebellion is the spirit that Demna Gvasalia has maintained since Vetements. He has been holding it so much that it seems like a lifelong task. The elements he presents and works with, such as IKEA, DHL, Fortnite, and The Simpsons, are far from the high fashion that we can easily imagine. He has consistently borrowed subcultural ideas and images. And he has used his position to infuse them with luxury houses, which are considered mainstream in the fashion industry.
The factors mentioned earlier only give a moment of pleasure to those interested in fashion. It may seem that they are no longer maintaining the freshness of when Vetements first appeared as it is only a volatile issue. Only the image is indeed different every moment, and in the end, everyone gets bored by repeating the same message repeatedly. However, as the luxury industry embraced the street culture, his attempts successfully concealed his radicality and political statement by disguising himself as a flash of a moment.
If Demna Gvasalia had been conveyed only through language, he might have already been embroiled in many controversies. But, as everyone knows, he’s still alive and well, and the mainstream doesn’t consider his attempts to be a threat, only as an event. In the meantime, he built his aesthetic. Subcultures no longer remain subcultures. They are partners in luxury goods and are on an equal footing with high fashion. However, this phenomenon also has risks or limitations. It remains to be seen whether this trend will lead to decentralization or just dichotomy in the mainstream. Just as the existing luxury goods industry used prices and their legacy to raise the barrier of access, subcultural elements combined with luxury goods only consume traditional images. They do not break down the walls of traditional luxury goods.
All rebellious fashions that seem to criticize existing fashion aesthetics deliberately are based on a kind of stability. I say ‘something’ here involves the belief that at least the underlying systems of society seem solid and secure, even if individuals may be at risk.
After all, it’s not the clothes that are important in today’s fashion, but the appearance — people who like fashion value names rather than clothes and stories rather than materials. The quality of clothes is only a secondary matter, as they search for what is correct and how attractive and diverse they can tell. The build quality is just a matter of the person who likes the clothes themselves or who makes them, and it is out of the question for those who enjoy ‘fashion’. No matter how unreasonable and violent the process may be, it is questionable whether it is reasonable to judge the quality of production where even cheap clothes can be guaranteed a certain degree of quality during the production process. The 2022FW Balenciaga also faced this reality and presented a well-used collection.
Only ‘Ukraine’ is narrated clearly, and Balenciaga did not provide subtitles. I wondered if it would be possible to provide English subtitles while blaming my ignorance, but they have no intention of doing so. I can’t understand it. If you think about it, what is the difference between the people who are only getting news from Ukraine now and me? The show begins, and we watch the models walk out onto the stage in a blizzard. If you are in a blizzard while wearing sunglasses, the stage is so precarious that you wonder if you can see what’s ahead. People are ‘watching’ it from behind a secure glass partition. There was a time when people sitting in the front had to be hit with water splashing out of the runway floor with water-filled. How is it different from the reality in Ukraine, where we only see Ukraine on the screen as we admire the models walking through the blizzard behind the screen? Of course, the clothes the models are wearing are of good material and high quality and beautiful clothes, but what do these mean on stage? These things are nothing more than fabrics fluttering in the wind, and the models stagger and merely do their jobs in the blizzard.
Demna wondered if he could metaphorically portray his message and reality through this show, but he decided to shout as he decorated the finale with the Ukrainian flag. After all, time cannot be turned back, and what happened is what happened. The traditional ending, in which the models walk all at once, is also not presented. Balenciaga introduced the clothes they prepared, but the clothes and models who passed by did not return. All that remains is a blizzard. As time passes and the only thing that still exists is a blizzard, the only thing that doesn’t change is reality.
The war in Ukraine has triggered the pain of a past trauma I have carried in my home country and I became a forever refugee. (…) Because in a time like this, fashion loses its relevance and its actual right to exist. Fashion week feels like some kind of an absurdity. — Demna
As shown in the hooded t-shirt that appeared in the FW 2022 collection — the phrase Be different and an apple without a bite — Demna does not stop at Think different but calls for Be different. Can fashion change?