For many of us, this season’s Fashion Month has felt bittersweet. While we’re all excited to see the latest collections accompanied by a pregnant Rihanna and Euphoria’s fashion favourite Alexa Demie sitting front row, the tone felt almost…inappropriate.
Of all creative director’s this season, Balenciaga’s Demna Gvasalia was specifically triggered by the recent and present war in Ukraine and helped us answer whether fashion truly matters in light of everything that is going on right now.
“The war in Ukraine has triggered the pain of a past trauma I have carried in me since 1993, when the same thing happened in my home country,” wrote the designer, who as a 12-year-old was one of 250,000 Georgians forced from their homes by Abkhazian separatists during his country’s civil war, crossing the Caucasus mountains with his family.
The creative director encouraged the show’s audience to delve into a conscious reflection. The usual catwalk soundtrack was replaced by a poem read aloud by Demna in Ukrainian and a note was left on each of the 525 seats, along with a T-shirt in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, said that while “fashion week feels like some kind of an absurdity”, to cancel the show would have meant “surrendering to the evil that has already hurt me so much for almost 30 years”.
Demna insisted that the medium of fashion was irrelevant to the message of the show. “Fashion doesn’t matter now. The message must be love and peace, and fashion has to assume a strong position in this crisis.”
The show was held in a pod, showering the models in fake snow. This message, first organised six months ago, was intended as a comment on the climate emergency. “It was about what snow might mean in the future. And by the future, I mean now – when there are ski resorts that don’t have snow any more,” said Demna, who no longer uses his surname, Gvasalia. “But then it took on a whole different meaning, because of the crisis we are in.”
In terms of LVMH – the mother company which Balenciaga sits under – and its actions, the company has confirmed they would continue to pay their 3,500 employees there, as did Chanel, which has 17 standalone stores across Russia as well as mini boutiques within department stores, employing 371 people.