At about 10pm last Thursday night in Paris, a large unapologetically seedy Chinese restaurant was the place to be. Fashion professionals had trouped out to Belleville full of curiosity, hoping for a ‘happening’. We sat for a while admiring the cool club kids in the audience wearing a particularly off-kilter floral dress with a sweatshirt neckline and contemplated how many times we’d seen it on street style blogs in the last month. Out poured the models – not professionals but friends of the designers – walking so fast they were in danger of slipping as they stormed about the room. They wore giant-shouldered jackets slashed open at the back, recycled motorbike jackets, oversized-sleeved slogan sweatshirts, argyle tank tops, leather aprons, clingy cocktail dresses in lilac or scarlet and clunky frilled tea dresses, the daintiest covered in a film of plastic. The room was electric. It was indeed a happening; a gear-shifting, exhilarating, authentic, renegade moment. It was the Vetements show.
ABOVE: THE VETEMENTS SPRING / SUMMER 2016 SHOW
Yesterday, Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia was named Balenciaga’s new artistic director. He takes over from Alexander Wang, who showed his last collection for the house only a few days ago. Vetements, which means simply ‘clothes’ in French, is a designer collective with Demna its appointed head, together with his brother, Guram, and their friends. They have produced just four collections, and were barely granted underground status before they were snapped up by stores who bought into their recycled denim, alternative parkas, biker jackets, hoodies, and THAT dress – floral, dippy-hemmed, sweatshirt-necked, easy-to-wear but unmistakably avant-garde – the star street-style piece this fashion month.
Demna Gvasalia, 34, was born in Georgia but grew up in Germany. After graduating from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, he worked at Maison Martin Margiela and then as senior designer of women’s ready-to-wear collections at Louis Vuitton. In other words, top designer pedigree; a tailor as obsessed with cut, proportion and meticulous fit, as he is passionate about challenging the status quo. Vetements’ first women’s collection was presented at Paris Fashion Week in 2014. Gvasalia will continue his work at Vetements alongside his new role at Balenciaga.
ABOVE: BALENCIAGA THROUGH THE AGES, A/W 08, S/S 13, S/S 16 (From Left)
That Kering, the luxury goods group that owns Balenciaga, has chosen this particular designer as its new creative head is like a shot of adrenalin in the arm of haute fashion. It’s the kind of risk-taking appointment reminiscent of what happened in the mid-to-late 1990s when Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Marc Jacobs were installed at Givenchy, Dior and Louis Vuitton respectively. Gvasalia, with his fiercely alternative vision plugged into Balenciaga, could be the defibrillator that revives pure, undiluted cool in an industry that thought those days were long gone. Where Alexander Wang got bogged down in the house’s heritage, Gvasalia will no doubt rip it apart – just as Cristóbal Balenciaga did in the 1950s.
Roll on 2016. When we will feel the energy in the (Balenciaga) room.