Vetements' Demna Gvasalia Talks Balenciaga, Growing up in Georgia & More

Fashion’s man of the moment sits down with SSENSE.

Fashion
7,070 Hypes 0 Comments

Vetements’ Spring/Summer 2016 show at a Chinese restaurant last fall pretty much stole the headlines at Paris Fashion Week. Yet, somehow, the label and its frontman, co-founder Demna Gvasalia, remain a mystery to many — despite Gvasalia’s graduation from Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts and stints at both Maison Margiela and Louis Vuitton, not to mention his appointment as Alexander Wang’s replacement at Balenciaga. In an attempt to remedy all that, Suleman Anaya sat down with Gvasalia for SSENSE, linking up with the Georgian designer at Vetements’ hangar-like showroom on the Boulevard de Strasbourg in the 10th Arrondissement. In the lengthy conversation that followed, Gvasalia reflected on everything from his youthful days in ex-Soviet Georgia and his time at Margiela and Vuitton to Vetements’ attitude, what attracted him to the Balenciaga position, and much more.

While an excerpt of the interview appears below, the piece can be read in its entirety over at SSENSE.

Right off the bat, I think you threw the best party Paris Fashion Week has seen in a long time, so thanks for that. It almost felt like London or Berlin in terms of music and energy.
That was the point – that for five hours you could imagine you weren’t in Paris. So we got a DJ from Berlin, and everyone loved it. Even I was a bit surprised by how freely everyone enjoyed themselves. At one point, five of the girls we had cast on Instagram for our show were dancing completely topless in a circle. It was fun, totally carefree, and very pure at the same time.

You are the “Toast of Paris,” to use a corny phrase. But if things had turned out differently you could have been a banker in Düsseldorf. Not many people know about your connection to Germany.
My family moved from ex-Soviet Georgia to Düsseldorf in 2000, and I stayed there for a year and a half. It was a brief period, but significant in that it was where I figured out what I wanted to do. I had studied economics in Georgia, just because my parents didn’t believe that fashion design could be a real profession one could live off of. So I had my bachelor’s degree in economics, and when I arrived in Germany, the idea was for me to get a job at a bank. But in Düsseldorf, I decided I owed it to myself to do what I really wanted to do, and in 2002 I started my studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Art in Antwerp.

What was growing up in Georgia like?
Up until 1991, Georgia was part of the ex-Soviet Union, so I had a Soviet childhood. I was brought up with Stalinist, Leninist, and Communist ideas and deprived of any kind of real information. There were only two magazines that had some vague fashion references in them, which of course had nothing to do with what was going on in the West. Then the Soviet Union collapsed, and Georgia opened up. It was like an explosion. Suddenly you had Fanta and Coca Cola, and Vogue. There was a glut of foreign influences. Now we had McDonald’s, and the coolest thing was to have your birthday party at McDonald’s. I remember I celebrated my birthday there once, and it was like “Wow!” It was like going to Caviar Kaspia here in Paris. It was so colorful, and Happy Meals actually made people happy.

Do you think that vacuum has informed the way you see things? There seems to be a residual fascination with the iconography of freedom and capitalism in Vetements collections, as in the DHL t-shirt that opened your last show.
I guess to some extent that delayed cultural formation did shape me, because I had such a hunger for discovering and knowing things that my generational peers already knew.

When did you know you wanted to design clothes?
I have wanted to do this for as long as I can remember. As a child, I was obsessed with clothes and kept changing outfits, just because I wanted to try a new look. Keep in mind this was in a Soviet country where millions of kids wore the same clothes, so the variety of what I had to work with was limited. But the lack of means pushes you further. I also loved looking at the women around me, what they were wearing.

Read Full Article

What to Read Next

Balenciaga Creative Director Demna Gvasalia Presented With Medal of Honor from President of Georgia
Fashion

Balenciaga Creative Director Demna Gvasalia Presented With Medal of Honor from President of Georgia

“Demna Gvasalia is a model for the next generation of creative Georgians.”

Balenciaga’s Holiday Ornaments Help You Deck the Halls in Style
Fashion

Balenciaga’s Holiday Ornaments Help You Deck the Halls in Style

Now you can hang your favorite Fall/Winter 2021 piece on the Christmas tree.  

Fly in Luxury With Balenciaga's $650 USD Travel Pillow
Fashion

Fly in Luxury With Balenciaga's $650 USD Travel Pillow

Also doubling as a hoodie’s hood.


Demna Gvasalia Breaks With Convention in His First-Ever Balenciaga Couture Show
Fashion

Demna Gvasalia Breaks With Convention in His First-Ever Balenciaga Couture Show

A somber affair, cut with references to the house’s past — and the reveal of the brand’s first men’s couture.

'Creed' Director Ryan Coogler Sits Down With J. Cole for an Extremely Revealing Interview
Entertainment

'Creed' Director Ryan Coogler Sits Down With J. Cole for an Extremely Revealing Interview

Along with Cole’s recently revealed secret, watch the interview in full.

Listen to Three New Tracks From Hodgy Beats
Music 

Listen to Three New Tracks From Hodgy Beats

“Resourcefool,” “d00rs” and “Loyalty.”

New Balance Gives the 878 Its Best Colorway Yet
Footwear

New Balance Gives the 878 Its Best Colorway Yet

One of New Balance’s more underrated silhouettes gets a worthy make-up.

Big Sean Is Taking Action to Help Flint, Michigan Residents
Music 

Big Sean Is Taking Action to Help Flint, Michigan Residents

This water crisis in Flint, Michigan is inexplicable and inexcusable.

Givenchy Mixes Various American Sub Cultures in Its 2016 Fall/Winter Collection
Fashion

Givenchy Mixes Various American Sub Cultures in Its 2016 Fall/Winter Collection

Thriftstore cowboy looks.


Kanye West and Swizz Beatz Are in the Studio
Music 

Kanye West and Swizz Beatz Are in the Studio

New music from Kanye and Swizz coming soon?

Watch Highlights From Louis Vuitton's 2016 Fall/Winter Collection
Fashion

Watch Highlights From Louis Vuitton's 2016 Fall/Winter Collection

Kim Jone’s collection in 3D.

Hikmet Sugoer's Top 21 Sneaker Collabs by Solebox
Footwear

Hikmet Sugoer's Top 21 Sneaker Collabs by Solebox

The renowned sneaker aficionado lists the best projects he’s worked on during his illustrious career.

Increase Your Jumpman Knowledge With the 'Air Jordan Encyclopedia 2.0'
Footwear

Increase Your Jumpman Knowledge With the 'Air Jordan Encyclopedia 2.0'

Just when you thought you couldn’t know more about Jordans.

TDE President Punch Releases New Song, "Gone"
Music 

TDE President Punch Releases New Song, "Gone"

TDE’s head honcho got bars too.

More ▾
 
Subscribe to our Newsletter

Gain access to exclusive interviews with industry creatives, think pieces, trend forecasts, guides and more.

By subscribing, you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Looks like you’re using an ad-blocker

We charge advertisers instead of our readers. Support us by whitelisting our site.

Whitelist Us

How to Whitelist Us

screenshot
  1. Click the AdBlock icon in the browser extension area in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Under “Pause on this site” click “Always”.
  3. Refresh the page or click the button below to continue.
screenshot
  1. Click the AdBlock Plus icon in the browser extension area in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Block ads on – This website” switch off the toggle to turn it from blue to gray.
  3. Refresh the page or click the button below to continue.
screenshot
  1. Click the AdBlocker Ultimate icon in the browser extension area in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Switch off the toggle to turn it from “Enabled on this site” to “Disabled on this site”.
  3. Refresh the page or click the button below to continue.
screenshot
  1. Click the Ghostery icon in the browser extension area in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Click on the “Ad-Blocking” button at the bottom. It will turn gray and the text above will go from “ON” to “OFF”.
  3. Refresh the page or click the button below to continue.
screenshot
  1. Click the UBlock Origin icon in the browser extension area in the upper right-hand corner.
  2. Click on the large blue power icon at the top.
  3. When it turns gray, click the refresh icon that has appeared next to it or click the button below to continue.
screenshot
  1. Click the icon of the ad-blocker extension installed on your browser.You’ll usually find this icon in the upper right-hand corner of your screen. You may have more than one ad-blocker installed.
  2. Follow the instructions for disabling the ad blocker on the site you’re viewing.You may have to select a menu option or click a button.
  3. Refresh the page or click the button below to continue.