Vetements: fashion as a political, and personal, statement
It was very deeply ironic that Demna Gvasalia, the Georgian refugee who is the hottest designer in Paris these days, should stage his latest show right at the moment when Russia, the country that invaded and separated his native region on the Black Sea, were fighting to victory in the World Cup.
Demna drafted in 40 young Georgians from a raw casting in Tbilisi, for a show where Cyrillic slurs, Soviet emblems, funky clothes and a group of masked men marched in this Vetements Spring Summer 2019 collection.
“It’s my most personal fashion proposition... I don’t think I had the confidence before to create this sort of collection. I was made a refugee at the age of 10. Our family home was bombed. I was a refugee in my own country,” said the designer, just as Russia and Spain began a penalty shoot out in a last-16 match in Moscow. When this designer was still a child, Russian invaded his native region of Abkhazia – forcing his family to eventually flee to Western Europe and begin a long journey of self-discovery, which seemed to meet a certain telling moment on Sunday evening in Paris.
Staged underneath a flyover beneath the city’s main ring road and backed up by a soundtrack that included the Sisters of Mercy, the collection had tons of mega hard-rock attitude.
His opening look was a second-skin T-shirt with a mother and child in front of an image of St Basil’s Cathedral. T-shirts throughout were worn with huge oversized coats, with large shoulder pads, just like his grandmother used to alter her coats. Parkas were finished with cowls, necks finished with S&M chokers; feet covered in sneakers done with huge spikes. Cut-up, stitched back together gray jeans; camouflage jackets with matching shorts worn with balaclavas; and then a series of great sporty skiing parkas made in the colors of the national flags of Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, the USA and, of course, Georgia. All rather cool, but also threatening.
“It’s a very different way of me working, instead of just making clothes. So, I realized I needed some story telling, my own. More like making a movie than a show. I went back to my actual roots in my troubled country. So the oversized clothes are some things I recycled from my cousins who had more money. I didn’t know fashion existed back then!” explained the designer, literally seconds before Russia – an underdog in sport, but not in war on the Black Sea – defeated Spain on penalties.
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