When Alexander Wang announced that he was leaving Balenciaga a couple of weeks ago the overwhelming response was why? Sales at the LVMH owned brand are still strong, the collections are well received and although Wang was not the obvious choice to take over, it seemed that he was finally getting the hand of reinterpreting the design codes laid down by founder Cristobal Balenciaga.
So why did he leave? Our guess is that seeing as his own label is New York based, and the Balenciaga Atelier is in Paris, he got got sick of travelling back and forth. Also, we have a sneaky suspicion that after seeing how much of a success Alessandro Michele has been at Gucci, LVMH may have decided that appointing an unknown designer is in fact a risk worth taking.
The fashion industry loves a guessing game, sending the design wheel spinning in the seemingly endless reshuffle of top designers in top positions. However, after weeks of spinning, no one would have predicted that Demna Gvasalia’s name would have ended up with Balenciaga’s. To be honest, initially we had no idea who he was, so headed straight to Google to do a bit of digging. Turns out he's a bit of a maverick. He studied at The Royal Institute of Fine Art in Antwerp ( where Dries Van Noten, Martin Margiela and Kris Van Assche also studied) and then went on to work at Louis Vuitton and Maison Margiela. Now, together with 6 other designers, he heads up the label Vetements (only in its 4th season but already causing quite the sensation).
At its core, Vetements rejects what they term “the fashion spectacle”, forgoing the glitzy aspects of the industry and focusing on design (the other 6 designers are anonymous, adding to the mystery). The clothing is similar in style and feel to collections produced by Margiela, in that they focus on what is called “deconstructing” clothing, basically reworking wardrobe staples and presenting them in ways we haven't seen before, blazers as dresses, belts as necklaces, ballgowns made from velour etc. Their shows are presented in grimy, off beat locations such as an infamous sex club in Paris, and they would rather use their friends and families to show their collection, rather than models. Not the most obvious choice to take over such an established and prestigious fashion house, but Balenciaga himself has become an icon due to his own reworking of traditional silhouettes, so perhaps Gvasalia is actually a perfect fit.
Personally, we think these old houses need new blood to keep them fresh and interesting, and will be very interested to see if this new appointment by LVMH pays off.
Balenciaga by Alexander Wang
Vetements by Demna Gvasalia