Placing gut-wrenching memories aside, Demna Gvasalia ventured deep into his own personal memory bank with the aim of capturing the true spirit of his war-torn past. “I dedicated this collection to Georgia, the Georgia where my brother Guram and I grew up together in the ’90s, and the war that happened where we lived. I tried to face this angst and fear and pain in this show. I didn’t want to remember before, I didn’t want to go that far,” he expressed in speaking of the collection.
Feeling an overwhelming sense of empathy for those who share such a harrowing history, Gvasalia felt it only right to bring on street-cast Georgian models into the show. “They don’t smile” — a phrase the designer used to characterize his compatriot muses, as each took turns strutting down a wedding reception-esque catwalk that was staged in close proximity to the Boulevard Périphérique — an area of the capital where many displaced migrants sought refuge.
“I told my shrink that she should come and see the show because, for me, it would open doors to a lot of unanswered questions,” said Demna Gvasalia. After looking “the elephant in the room” in the face last season by going back to his designer roots and “to the [Martin] Margiela approach,” this season he had his homeland Georgia on his mind.
“Family and war,” said the designer, who had recently returned to his childhood home that was bombed out during the Georgian Civil War. Through the collection, he wanted to embark on some storytelling, he said, to face his fears “and painful moments that I never [processed] postwar in the Nineties.”
The “normal” clothes with gigantic proportions were based on the hoodies he wore as a kid, hand-me-downs from his cousins. His 80-year-old grandmother, who lost her hearing for weeks following the bombing, “and the immense amounts of shoulder pads she still uses,” were also an inspiration.”
“It’s a very different way of working for me as I always did shows that were mainly about clothes,” continued Gvasalia after the show, adding that the collection practically wrote itself — “going back to Georgia all the time.”
To model the looks, he brought more than almost 40 people from Georgia — kids who reminded him of himself when he first came to Europe, each embodying “a certain naïveté and the voice that they feel they don’t have in their own country.”
Hence the designer’s use of slogans, which he described as symbolizing “a voice for youth in repressed political regimes where they can’t demonstrate, they can’t say what they think, there’s no real freedom; I lived through that.” They included one that Gvasalia said was one of the most offensive expressions in the Russian language.