Things are moving fast in Fashion. Faster than anywhere else. Trends, models and designers come and go. One day, they are on everyone's lips, the next day they're out (auf wiedersehen!) Nothing can be taken for granted. Take for instance the shocking news of Alexander Wang leaving Balenciaga to focus on his own brand. Did you see that coming? Because we didn't. Only 3 years after his arrival and as he was finding the right cruising speed (his Autumn Winter 15/16 collection is the most brilliant collection he has imagined for the brand) he decided to go back to New York. We have loved this short era and how Wang brought his streetwear energy & cool vibes to this venerable house. The challenge was difficult but he succeeded hands down, not impressed by the huge heritage Nicolas Ghesquière left behind him. But now, he's gone and Balenciaga will experience, for sure, a complete makeover with the appointment of Demna Gvasalia, the leader of anonymous collective VETEMENTS, announced two days ago by Kering.
I have to admit I am completely excited by this news. A few names circulated to replace Alexander Wang. Such renowned designers as Joseph Altuzarra, Jack McCullough & Lazaro Hernandez (the duet behind Proenza Schouler) or even Chitose Abe, the Sacai magician but all things considered, all these names would have been too obvious. Balenciaga needed fresh blood, a brand new kind of energy and above all, a less prestigious designer to reach new highs. The Gucci experience proved highly successful so why not taking this "risk" one more time? This seems to be the strategy of Kering these days: appointing shadow designers to big fashion houses, to invent new codes and bring a new kind of desirability. A strategy that would definitely do some good to Saint Laurent... This has two advantages: first, you can be sure that what will be done has never been before (look at the Gucci extreme makeover by Alessandro Michele and you'll understand what I'm saying) and secondly, a less famous designer will be, perhaps, less tempted to leave after a few seasons to see if the grass is really greener somewhere else, he/she will be eagerer to prove his/her worth. I am under the impression that we are experiencing again this glorious 90s period when Alexander McQueen, Marc Jacobs & John Galliano all get the best fashion jobs (respectively at Givenchy, Louis Vuitton & Dior) while they were far from being world-renowned. So, let's see what will happen but I am sure Demna Gvasilia is the right and perfect choice for this kind of risky business. He proved with his fashion collective VETEMENTS (read our articles about this brand here, here and here) that he is not afraid to go against the flow, showing things that will disturb by their triviality, their raw sides, their weird relationship toward Beauty. And after all, the Georgian designer doesn't come from anywhere, his résumé is already pretty impressive: he graduated from the famous Antwerp Academy of Fine Arts and worked for Margiela (where he was in charge of the womenswear collections from 2009 to 2013) then Louis Vuitton (where he was senior designer for womenswear). Isabelle Guichot, CEO of Balenciaga told WWD that they wanted "somebody that respects the legacy of the brand but also that injects a totally new take on Balenciaga" and in this interview she even drew a comparison with Cristobal Balenciaga himself by saying "he was always reinventing the way he was working, reinventing the way he spoke to the client, reinventing the way he presented his collections [...]". So can we expect Demna Gvasalia to present his first Balenciaga collection in some underground Parisian places? Definitely not! I am sure he is way more clever than that and just like a chameleon, he knows how to adapt to the people he is talking to. With VETEMENTS, it's all about designing for our real world with a wardrobe that may seem trash and basic but that is beyond this mere analysis. Like Martin Margiela, he knows how to twist, deconstruct, distort, denature basics to give them a brand new soul, a brand new identity, a brand new power. Like it or not, I am sure he & his team do not care at all! That's exactly the kind of personality Balenciaga needed to keep on marching to a glorious future! So, my advice is to wait & see but above all do not forge any preconceived ideas about what he will create and present for his 1st show next March (Paris Fashion Week has been over for 2 days we're already talking about the next one! Faster! Faster! Always faster!) because I'm sure everything you could imagine will be the exact opposite of what he will show. We are in a brand new era with brand new designers who are so clever that they will never be where you could expect them to be (Jonathan Anderson is, according to me, the leader of this newgen). The best thing to do is just watch the incredible but fast show of Fashion unraveling before your eyes and let the magic happen but above all, do not miss a single moment otherwise you'll be lost forever!
Words by Charles Margueritte