Balenciaga takes a position: Demna talks standing up for Ukraine

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

The Kering-owned brand got the Paris fashion crowd talking with a personal take on war. Luke Leitch was there.

“Fashion somehow doesn’t matter now, to me.” So said Demna after a Balenciaga show that was the first in mainstream fashion explicitly to address and reference Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – a terrible present reality that the luxury industry has been scrambling to adapt to.

Balenciaga takes a position: Demna talks standing up for Ukraine

While Kim Kardashian caused a stir – and made a loud scrunching noise as she walked by, dressed neck-to-toe in Balenciaga branded packaging tape, (which Demna says the company plans to sell) – it was the collection’s emotional referencing of the horrors of the war in Ukraine that spoke the loudest. Demna is perhaps the only designer in fashion with the experiential range to allow a Kardashian photo opportunity to be placed alongside commentary about the humanitarian crisis of this European war and leave neither belittled or trivialised by the adjacency.

Balenciaga Ukraine

Many of Balenciaga’s expressions of solidarity with Ukraine on Sunday were literal and unambiguous. Before the show began we heard a recording of Demna reading a poem in Ukrainian: “It’s a poem telling Ukraine to be strong, to focus on love, and that its sons will protect it,” he explained afterward. Every guest was given a T-shirt in the colours of the Ukrainian flag, which François-Henri Pinault, chairman, and CEO of Kering, was wearing draped around his shoulders. During the post-show scrum Ukrainian pop was played over the sound system backstage.

Much of the show’s allusive power in encapsulating the horror of Russia’s war on its neighbor and sadness for those whose lives it is devastating was the result of a combination of coincidence and Demna’s personal identity. The coincidence was that Sunday’s show was planned as the pandemic-delayed sequel to Autumn/Winter 2020 – Balenciaga’s walk-on-water show – was an apocalyptic warning of the ecological consequences of human hubris. The invitation was a discarded iPhone 6. Demna said “the show we did just before corona was very dark, somber, walk on water, all the biblical references. I wanted this to be the opposite of that. This open, infinite white space.

But it actually turned into something else given the circumstances in which we are, which often happens in my shows, somehow.”

models fight the artificial elements, striding against a fierce fan-forced wind and the artificial snow it whipped up to lash against their faces and clothes. Remembering that this stage and all the collection had been designed before Russia invaded Ukraine and displaced 1.5 million people, it was nonetheless impossible not to see metaphorical parallels between this artificial experience and that very real one. “That was a very deliberate scenography,” Demna said.


Demna was 12 when he and his brother Guram fled the Georgian civil war – in which Russian-supported separatists were a protagonist – in 1993. With his family, he sought refuge in bomb shelters and escaped the country overland.

Self-described in Sunday’s notes as a “forever refugee” he is now settled in Switzerland and lived for a while in Odesa, Ukraine. Of Sunday’s mise-en-scene he said “I was seeing myself walking the path of 30 years ago when I was in the shelter like some 10-year-old Ukrainian boys and girls are now, with their parents, not knowing when the ceiling will fall on your head. And standing here today and doing that show, that path, to me if I could visually express that it was like those half-naked people walking through that wind.”

“It’s only innocent people that die in the war: I’ve experienced that. And I actually blocked it in myself for 30 years until I started to read the news last week, “ he added. “And it brought all this pain back which I didn’t actually do anything for – like anyone who goes through that, you know. The message is love always, I think in everything we should be doing. And fashion has to kind of assume that in some way, at least in terms of taking a position.”

Taking an outspoken position on the war in Ukraine makes him an outlier amongst the luxury megabrands. In Paris this week, many designers have called for peace, raised funds, and joined protests, though none arguably as personally and with the same profile as Demna. Owner Kering, alongside Chanel, Hermès, Prada, and LVMH has announced the pause of operations in Russia, though often without directly criticising Russia, or even calling it a war.

In taking a position through the storytelling and presentation of Sunday’s show, however, Demna was breaking important ground at fashion month. As the designer said in his notes for the show: “in a time like this, fashion loses its relevance and its actual right to exist.

Fashion week feels like some kind of absurdity.” But canceling the show would mean giving in, so instead he dedicated the show to “fearlessness, to resistance and to the victory of love and peace”.

Written by Luke Leitch

All Rights Reserved | No Copyright Infringement Intended

#Balenciaga takes a position: Demna talks standing up for Ukraine

#Balenciaga takes a position: Demna talks standing up for Ukraine

#Balenciaga takes a position: Demna talks standing up for Ukraine

#Balenciaga takes a position: Demna talks standing up for Ukraine

#Balenciaga takes a position: Demna talks standing up for Ukraine

Haute People was launched in September 2011 as a Fashion Blog and has grown into a Lifestyle Blog. The Term “Haute” can be defined as “Fashionably Elegant” or of High Quality. This blog looks at topics from Beauty, Fashion, Entertainment, Hair Trends, Pop Culture as well as exciting new features every month. A favorite among our readers is “Behind The Seams” where influential people from the Creative Industries are featured. . Haute People are Smart, Bold, Creative and Individualistic. If you have an innate passion for Lifestyle, Fashion and all things current, you are HAUTE.

Write A Comment