PARIS, France — Having begun his meteoric ascent into the fashion firmament by creating Vetements' cult slogan products, and regularly gigantifying the once-discreet Balenciaga logo throughout his first year as creative director, it might have been expected that Demna Gvasalia’s second menswear collection at the house would contain some form of subversive branding. What was not expected was that in addition to adopting the typeface of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders' election campaign, he would riff on the branding of Kering, the French conglomerate that owns Balenciaga, an organisation that traditionally shies away from communicating directly with end consumers.
"I actually didn’t think [Kering] would agree with it, because it was kind of a different company. But I always do this sort of thing. I just have an idea that’s kind of impossible and I think: let’s try. What’s the worst that can happen? And they just straight up did it. They were surprised, I guess. But they were more than open-minded," Gvasalia tells BoF after his show.
"I don’t believe in monobranding. If you look around, go to stores, on the internet there are so many brands. There are so many images linked to the brands and the message: whether commercial [or] political. That to me is the reality today. Everything is branded. Everything has a logo. That is also present in my work, because I absorb what's around me and filter it through and it becomes — it goes on clothing," adds the designer, who is fast building a subversive signature through his adoption of other brands — be it Juicy Couture or DHL.
This season's collection, shown in the Place Vendôme, was a meditation on corporate dressing, with tailoring and sportswear distinguished by evolved silhouettes possessed of couture sensibility.
"Our whole research was based on businessmen on Wall Street and where they go to work and come back from. So, when that connection was formed I was very much for the idea of using a Kering logo because it was linked to the corporation and us being next to and a part of it," Gvasalia says. The decision to include the Kering brand motif was actually made after the collection was complete, and primarily motivated by the Balenciaga design studio moving into the Kering headquarters, which prompted some kind of subconscious aesthetic osmosis.
It was a kind of symbolic thank you from me, for them allowing me to build a new story at Balenciaga.
"It’s pretty much just a reflection of my surroundings," says Gvasalia. "Today, Kering and [Balenciaga] are literally one, both located in the Kering headquarters. It just made total sense for us to have the branding. It was also a kind of symbolic thank you from me, for them allowing me to build a new story at Balenciaga," he explains.
Gvasalia was quick to dismiss the idea that his decision to include the motif was a commentary on the growing visibility of fashion conglomerates' corporate brands to consumers that are more informed than ever before.
"Fashion has the power of communicating certain visual messages. Putting [logos] on a t-shirt or a raincoat. I had this experience a couple seasons ago at Vetements — where we printed the DHL logo, only because it was so prevalent in our lives back then. And DHL became kind of fashion. The logo of a delivery service — a courier — became a fashion statement for some people. It had an impact by being related to a fashion brand and that is quite interesting, I think. But for us it’s an art form," he says.
"I don’t think the end-customer, or the customer I like to dress, cares about the deeper meaning behind the logos," says Gvasalia. "For me, the visual is what matters really. It is to create a visual suggestion linked to something corporate and formal without necessarily hiding a strong message or meaning into it. It is really for the fashion insiders — for the people who know what’s happening behind the scenes, back in the kitchen."