Who is the refugee designer who created the destroyed Balenciaga sneakers for sale for R$ 10,000


BBC News Brazil

Torn, dirty, but on sale for R$10,000. This is the “full destroyed” (“completely destroyed”), the new sneaker launched by the luxury brand Balenciaga.

Available in mule versions, for US$495 (about R$2,600), and high-top versions, for US$1,800 (about R$10,000), the shoe is the brand’s new bet and has generated memes on social media, including in Brazil. But who is behind these creations that are causing a stir on social media?

They bear the signature of former Georgian refugee Demna Gvasalia, creative director of Balenciaga, in the post since 2015, when he replaced American Alexander Wang at the head of the French brand founded by Spaniard Cristóbal Balenciaga in 1917.

“Weird and lonely”, as he has called himself in interviews, Gvasalia was born in Georgia to an Orthodox Russian family under Soviet rule on March 25, 1981. In 1993, at just 12 years old, he was forced to leave his native country due to civil war to Germany.

He later returned to Georgia to study international economics at Tbilisi State University in the country’s capital for four years, and then attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Belgium, where he earned his master’s degree in fashion design in 2006. .

Today, she lives with her husband, French musician and composer Loïck Gomez, and their two dogs in a village near Zurich, Switzerland. She is fluent in six languages.

The refugee experience shaped his personality and is reflected in his collections. At the most recent Paris Fashion Week in March this year, Gvasalia paid tribute to refugees. As the models paraded, he recited a poem in Ukrainian, at a time that he confessed was difficult on a personal level.

The crisis in Ukraine, according to the Georgian, has resurrected an old trauma. “I have become a refugee forever,” he said in a statement released ahead of the parade. “Forever, because that’s something that stays with us. The fear, the despair, the realization that nobody wants us,” he added.


When he was appointed by luxury conglomerate Kering, Balenciaga’s owner of other brands such as Saint Laurent, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Boucheron and Alexander McQueen, to the post of chief creative officer, Gvasalia was an illustrious unknown — better known in the industry as the founder of Vetements, the anarchic streetwear brand he launched with his brother Guram in 2014.

But with his subversive style and activism, the Georgian has already cemented his name as a star in the select universe of star stylists, making Balenciaga the fastest growing brand within the group.

In 2019, its revenue exceeded 1 billion euros (R$ 5.3 billion) and was considered one of the top three brands in The Lyst Index, a quarterly ranking of the most popular brands and products in fashion. For this, Gvasalia has a loyal audience: millennials, who represent around 65% of Balenciaga’s customers.

“I think this decade has probably represented the most chaotic moment in fashion,” Gvasalia said of the changes in the fashion industry in an interview with the British newspaper Financial Times in 2019. “It’s been quite scary. But times have changed. The way we communicate with our customers today is a completely different story,” he added.

And, at least for now, Gvasalia seems to know how to communicate with its customers. It’s no wonder he describes himself as “an Instagram voyeur”—the stylist is known for creating catchy, visual content that proliferates online.

“The younger generation is very informed and very politicized. And I think it’s time for activism and people to stand up,” he told the Financial Times in the same interview. That’s what happened with their hybrid shoe, the Triple S, which combines three different shoe soles and is Balenciaga’s best seller.

In the opinion of Katy Lubin, vice president of communications at Lyst, Gvasalia is “the grand master of meme fashion,” saying she sees “huge spikes in page views for Balenciaga’s more experimental pieces as they go viral,” she said. to the Financial Times. Despite this, Gvasalia told the British newspaper not to worry so much about the likes, but about his “intuition”.

“In the end, I try to communicate through clothes. I don’t tweet, thank God, or do anything like that. I make clothes. For me, likes on Instagram are as irrelevant as making a product and then doing research on what people like. people think about it. For me, product design is about believing in something; it’s about feeling. And in the past my intuition has always led me to the right places.”

It remains to be seen now whether Gvasalia’s intuition is sharp: will the “destroyed” sneaker be a bestseller? If it depends on your latest releases, most likely yes.

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