Balenciaga’s Intriguing Artistic Director Hire Is Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia

Photographed by Willy Vandeperre/Courtesy of @Balenciaga.
Balenciaga has chosen Alexander Wang’s successor, and it’s a bit of a wild-card hire: Vetements designer Demna Gvasalia has been named artistic director at the hallowed fashion house. "[Gvasalia] has quickly emerged as the best choice for the new artistic direction of the maison," Isabelle Guichot, Balenciaga's president and CEO, said in a statement. "With his mastery of techniques, his expertise and fashion knowledge, in conjunction with his innovative and carefully considered approach, Demna Gvasalia adopts a unique vision of the designer’s role today and thus recalls Cristobal Balenciaga’s own vision." As for his résumé: Before launching Vetements last year, Gvasalia spent a year as senior designer of women’s ready-to-wear at Louis Vuitton. Prior to that, he was at Maison Martin Margiela from 2009 to 2013, working on the label’s women’s collections. The Georgian-born designer is an alum of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts.
Gvasalia is relatively young for such a top gig at an established luxury label — he’s just 34 — and he will continue to design Vetements collections. Sound familiar? Wang was also young when he scored the gig, arguably one of the biggest ticket, high-profile roles in fashion, and he kept his eponymous line going the whole time. Of course, that very juggling act is reportedly one of the reasons Wang parted ways with Balenciaga after two-and-a-half years. His last show for Balenciaga was presented in Paris on Friday, and Gvasalia will show his debut collection for the house, fall 2016, in March. Though Gvasalia's name might be less well known than his predecessor's, the fashion industry can't stop gushing about Vetements, which has gotten impressive buzz for a brand just five seasons in. The line, which focuses on sleek, simple wardrobe-building pieces in lieu of elaborate seasonal themes, was a finalist for this year's LVMH prize. (Oh, and Kanye West is a fan, for whatever that's worth to you.) Vetements was originally run by a collective of seven anonymous designers (whose names were contracted elsewhere, the New York Times reports). Gvasalia emerged as the line's creative force in late 2014. "Demna Gvasalia embodies a unique approach to the profession, marked by a sociological observation of the wardrobe’s essentials and the way he remains humble and rigorous in his creative work," François-Henri Pinault, president and CEO of Balenciaga's parent company, Kering, said in a statement. Although Balenciaga didn't divulge the big news until this morning, former Times critic (and current critic-at-large at The Cut) Cathy Horyn tweeted it last night: "Demna Gvasalia of Vetements denies he's the next designer at Balenciaga but that's the buzz tonight in Paris." Then, with another tweet this morning, she commended Gvasalia on his discretion: "Boy, did he have a perfect poker face yesterday when asked! But congrats!"

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