As founder of current “It” label Vetements and creative director of Balenciaga, Demna Gvasalia has unapologetically turned heads and split opinions in fashion circles regarding his genderfluid designs and disproportioned garments, drawing on ’90s kitschy sportswear influences. In a recent interview with W magazine, the Georgian designer simply summed up the norm-bending aesthetic of Vetements: “It’s always very much: ‘It’s ugly, that’s why we like it.’” That would explain some of his ensembles that have walked the runway, including a yellow DHL-branded tee and military-patched sweatshirts. Talking about his journey into fashion, the brand’s position at the border of men’s and womenswear, and why Vetements is inherently designed to be wearable, read some select excerpts below and find the full interview online here.
On the choice of brand name:
The word vetements—French for “clothing”—was initially a smokescreen to disguise the identities of the three moonlighting collaborators, but the name stuck. “We’re based in Paris, so we thought it sounded kind of fancy in French,” Gvasalia explains. “Some people can’t even pronounce Vetements, which is even cooler.”
It was not long before Gvasalia quit his day job and sank his savings into the first Vetements collection, for fall 2014, a thrifty affair comprising a rail of clothes shown in a tiny gallery in the Marais. “It looked like a supermarket,” Gvasalia recalls of that presentation. “It was horrible, actually.”
On breaking out of Georgia and into fashion:
“When I was 16, I told my parents that maybe I wanted to go to an art academy or to the fashion school in Georgia,” he recalls. “They said no way. First of all, it’s not appropriate to do fashion—and a guy doing that? Georgia is a supercrazy homophobic country.” His parents still aren’t quite sure about his career path. “When I told them that I was leaving Louis Vuitton to start my own brand, they said, ‘You’re crazy, you have a good job—it’s safe…you can work there for 25 years!’ ” He shrugs.
On the dynamic of the Vetements collective:
“Back in college, my friends and I worked together, we shared stuff,” Gvasalia recalls. “We’d get a box of red wine for, like, 3 euros and just draw and get drunk. It was very productive creatively. It’s not me deciding; it’s like in parliament. Every time we have a fitting, we invite girls who wear our stuff. Even though sometimes they can’t afford to actually buy the outfit, we always inquire, ‘Would you wear it? How?’ ”