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Suzy Menkes

Vogue International Editor Suzy Menkes is the best-known fashion journalist in the world. After 25 years commenting on fashion for the International Herald Tribune (rebranded recently as The International New York Times), Suzy Menkes now writes exclusively for Vogue online, covering fashion worldwide.

Balenciaga Will Wear New Vetements

Balenciaga Will Wear New Vetements

7 Октября 2015

Cover for British Vogue, December 1951 A model wears a Balenciaga white satin ball-dress gown with enormous oversized red cerise bow, drop earrings and necklace. Model: Della Oake. Picture credit: Cecil Beaton

Balenciaga’s new designer is Demna Gvasalia, 34, last seen in a kitsch Chinese restaurant showing the wide-shouldered Eighties look for his label, Vetements.

He takes over today as Artistic Director of the fashion house founded by the Spanish designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, considered the noblest couturier of all time.

Just four years before the brand’s 100th birthday in 2019, Kering, the luxury group that owns Balenciaga, announced that Demna Gvasalia will take creative responsibility for the brand’s collections and image. His debut collection will be shown in February at the autumn-winter 2016/17 ready-to-wear shows in Paris. At the same time, he will keep his position at the head of Vetements, with his brother Guram.

Demna Gvasalia, the new artistic director of Balenciaga Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia, who has just been appointed as creative director at Balenciaga. Picture credit: Willy Vanderperre

Demna, a German national of Georgian origin, takes over from Alexander Wang, the Asian-American designer who bowed out this season to concentrate on his own line. Previously, Nicholas Ghesquière was at the helm of Balenciaga, before being placed at Louis Vuitton, part of the LVMH empire.

British Vogue, January 1946. Portrait of Madame Alfredo Rubio, wearing Balenciaga waistcoat vest dress with Brandenburg embroidery and waist ruffle. Picture credit: Cecil Beaton

A graduate of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp – the alma mater of Raf Simons of Dior and Martin Margiela — Demna showed his first collection in 2007 at Tokyo Fashion Week, joining Maison Martin Margiela in 2009. He subsequently moved briefly to Louis Vuitton’s design team, while John Galliano joined Margiela.

This fashion game of musical chairs, as Kering and luxury conglomerate LVMH battle for the talent of tomorrow, means that designers are elevated to top positions with exceptional speed.

Vetements spring-summer 2016

But François-Henri Pinault, President and CEO of Kering, has complete confidence in his new protégé. “Demna embodies a unique approach,” he said today, “marked by sociological observation, and the way he remains humble and rigorous in his creative work. I am convinced that he will lead Balenciaga to a successful future.”

Certainly there is plenty of expectation of the young designer, for Pinault also went on to describe the maison’s “distinctive and radical style” that “influenced several generations of designers and couturiers to stand as one of the finest jewels of French fashion heritage”.

Vetements spring-summer 2016

Isabelle Guichot, President and CEO of Balenciaga, was full of praise for the new recruit. She told us, “With his mastery of techniques, his expertise and fashion knowledge, as well as his innovative and carefully considered approach, Demna has a unique vision of the designer’s role today and thus recalls Cristobal Balenciaga’s own vision.”

Balenciaga gown, early 1960s. A model wears a sari dress bought by Elizabeth Taylor. Picture credit: Image Courtesy of Balenciaga Archives, Paris

However, the success stories of designers who take over at established brands is patchy. The extraordinary three-decade-long history of Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel is seldom replicated. At Lanvin, Alber Elbaz has had a long and successful run. But, significantly, he has no personal brand. Too often, it seems that brand heritage remains constant but for the designers the key word is Next!

Vetements spring-summer 2016

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