BALENCIAGA’S GVASALIA: OVERSIZE, IT’S MY TERRITORY

“Oversize, it’s my territory,” he said. “I definitely intend to defend what is my design territory.”

By Cody

BALENCIAGA’S GVASALIA: OVERSIZE, IT’S MY TERRITORY

Demna Gvasalia is widely credited with popularizing blown-up proportions anew — to the point where Frankenstein shoulders and sleeves dangling past the fingertips invaded runways in all fashion capitals in recent years, not to mention the high street.

“Oversize, it’s my territory,” he said. “I definitely intend to defend what is my design territory.”

Big clothes are part of his personal fashion lore. Growing up poor in Soviet-era Georgia, he wore hand-me-downs from cousins who were five or six years older than him. New clothes were purchased in larger sizes to grow into. Hence, Gvasalia is like a fish out of water when he isn’t swimming in his clothes.

And that’s why he feels so at home in the house Cristóbal Balenciaga first opened in 1937 and helmed until his retirement in 1968. Among the most famous designs of the late Spanish-French couturier, prized for his spare and sculptural designs, are the cocoon coat, bubble skirt, and semi-fit jacket.

“He worked on volumes first and foremost, and not decoration,” said Gvasalia, who in an early collection for Balenciaga transposed the flaring back of the semi-fit jacket into a black sweatshirt. “What I found at Balenciaga was kind of a gift for me. I found Cristóbal Balenciaga’s approach to volume was so perfectly suitable for me with my personal taste for volume.”

Born in Georgia, in 1981, to a Georgian Orthodox Christian family, Gvasalia fled when he was 12, during the country’s violent civil war, and went on to live in Düsseldorf from 2001 onwards.

Gvasalia studied international economics for four years at Tbilisi State University and later attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, where he graduated with a Master’s Degree in Fashion Design in 2006.

In 2006, Gvasalia collaborated with Walter van Beirendonck on his men’s collections.

In 2009, Gvasalia joined Maison Martin Margiela, where he was responsible for women’s collections until 2013. In 2013, he was appointed senior designer of women’s ready-to-wear collections at Louis Vuitton, initially under Marc Jacobs and briefly under Nicolas Ghesquière.

Together with his brother Guram, Gvasalia launched the brand Vetements in 2014, along with a small group of friends, displaying their work in small gay clubs in Paris. Gvasalia has said that his original purpose with the brand was to subvert the high fashion status quo. Vetements’ first women’s ready-to-wear collection was presented at Paris Fashion Week in 2014.

In 2015, Gvasalia became the creative director of Balenciaga, succeeding in Alexander Wang.

In 2019, Gvasalia left Vetements to pursue new artistic ventures, having accomplished his goals with the company, telling Highsnobiety that he had “accomplished his mission of a conceptualist and design innovator.”

Gvasalia developed a unique style as his company, Vetements, grew in size and popularity. Much of Gvasalia’s approach still stems from his initial purpose of creating subversive fashion. Collections such as Fall/Winter 2017 included design inspired by archetypes, diverging from the typical haute couture method of radical redesign and avant-garde appearance. Other common themes include baggy, loose-fitting clothing, and street-style jackets.

Gvasalia won the International Award for Vetements and Balenciaga at the CFDA Fashion Awards in 2017. He also won the Accessories Designer of the Year award at the Fashion Awards 2018.

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