#2016 – Demna Gvasalia



Demna Gvasalia and the design collective behind Vetements presented more than one sin in the gothic-style Cathedral of America during their autumn-winter 2016 show. After a sleazy sex-club Le Depot and a cheesy Chinese restaurant, a church seemed to be the next unconventional choice for a show venue – however, the clothes purely (re)defined Vetements and it’s already well known, anti-fashion approach. Calling it a street wear brand is a colossal mistake, when you see the prices of these very well-manufactured coats and dresses, but in fact, Vetements is based on the sweat-shirts, which are transformed into new silhouettes every season. Moving away from the over-sized one, which stormed all the retail points last season, this time the hoodies had something of a zombie-look – the shoulders were lost somewhere in translation, and the solemn faces of the street-cast models perfectly matched the atmosphere of this undergound-kinky collection. The slogans – Sexual Fantasies, Big Daddy, for instance – had nothing in common with a proper communion

Haute couture, or high dressmaking, refers to the art of creating exclusive, custom-fitted fashion for awfully rich women (and men). Couture is constructed by so called petites mains, the little hands of Parisian ateliers, who consider high quality, expensive textiles and extreme attention to detail as their priority. This long and exhausting definition of haute couture applies to all houses who have their exclusive lines working hard to satisfy their high-end customers. Spoiler: Vetements certainly doesn’t match this crowd.

When Demna Gvasalia‘s off-beat label appeared on the calendar of haute couture week in Paris, no one was sure what’s coming. At the beginning of this year, Vetements declared the change of their fashion show schedule, making it more “realistic” for them, and their customers; also, the brand, which is on everybody’s lips, decided to show womenswear and menswear in one show, just like few other brands lately. So, what did really happen during Vetements’ show, in the middle of Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad glamorama? Let’s look back at it.

Vetements is known for eerie venues, but Galerie Lafayette can be named as one of the most surreal choices up to date. The runway was located along the aisles of cosmetics, perfumes and sales, letting other brands’ logos interact with the fashion collectives’ ready-to-wear. But the meaning of “collaboration” reached further than that – it was a collection made entirely with other brands, including Juicy Couture, Brioni, Schott, Levi’s, Comme des Garçons Shirt, Reebok, Canada Goose, Dr. Martens, Alpha Industries, Eastpak, Lucchesse, Mackintosh and even Manolo Blahnik. An extraordinary company equals an explosive effect. Moreover, brands listed above benefitted from this occasion – Juicy Couture’s velour track suits suddenly became ironically “cool” again, while Manolo was willing to go all the way with exaggerating his duchess satin stilettos. “We’ve done thigh-high, so we asked, could you go waist-high this time for us?” Demna said backstage with excitement. Brioni, Italian tailoring brand for men, which is currently revamped under Justin O’Shea’s wings, let Vetements elongate and recut their classical blazers; Eastpak, every travellers’ favourite producer of backpacks, contributed to creation of the first, Vetements clutch.

We thought we’d go straight to the brands who make all these things best, and ask to do something in our way with each one,” Gvasalia said. “The people who work at Vetements don’t really wear designer fashion—a lot of these are the labels they wear all the time.” The collection, in overall, is pure Vetements, even though the denim is by Levi’s and boots are from Texas’ cult Lucchesse. Styling is raw, while all beauty cannons are thrown away to the trash, looking at the models. If you’re desperate to seek the most couture-ish part of the collection, then it’s Juicy Couture’s velvet eveningwear – sleek, hooded dresses with zircon embellishments are sexy and somewhat… huh, elegant.


We’re talking about Balenciaga now – the house, which was found by Cristobal Balenciaga in 1919, which raised the designer of our century, Nicolas Ghesquiere, and went under a three-year period of uncertainty with Alexander Wang‘s miserable tumblr-meets-couture attempts. But Demna is a designer, who knows best how to create desirable fashion which will sell (Vetements sales turnout is the perfect example) – the unexpected choice of him as the creative director of this historic maison is both exciting and well-reasoned.

But if you think that Gvasalia is about to change Balenciaga into a higher-cost Vetements, then you’re wrong – the autumn-winter outing seemed to state visible barriers between the post-Soviet soul of the eponymous brand, as it freshly implemented the spirit of Balenciaga into a modern-day wardrobe of pure edginess. Back in the days, Cristobal wanted to look into fashion’s future, and Gvasalia understands that, by giving the audience over-sized, cosmic duvet jackets, leather market bags and embroidered tea-dresses. The floral prints were a bold nod to Balenciaga’s temperament and Spanish origins – while the tailoring, also a long-forgotten signature of the house, was revamped. “How do you persuade a woman to wear a two-piece suit who is not the German Chancellor?” Grey, flannel two-button jacket and a slit pencil skirt, in which the shoulders were slightly over-sized, “was the posture and the attitude, and Cristóbal’s way of working with the body I found interesting.

In other words, Gvasalia’s debut for Balenciaga isn’t favoured by me and by others just because it’s a debut – these clothes, the concept, and the styling are ground-breaking and intriguingly look back at the codes of Cristobal Balenciaga.

Honestly, Balenciaga‘s spring-summer 2017 collection has been the most anticipated show of the entire Paris Fashion Week. In the most unobvious ways, Demna revives Balenciaga’s couture elements since his first season, reinterpreting the brand’s archives and writing a new chapter. For spring, the Georgian designer explores the intimate relationship between couture and fetishism – two unlikely things that in fact are closely related to each other. Obsessive interest in achieving a result of absolute beauty, which goes in pair with wearing couture, is dangerously connected to a nearly sexual pleasure. When Cristobal’s maison was at its peak, a synthetic, stretchy fabric appeared in 1958 – spandex. Of course, Balenciaga’s aesthetic didn’t match with nonchalance of spandex at those times. But in 2016, Demna feels a strong connection between ‘kinkiness’ of spandex, and haute couture’s endless desire of looking perfect.

Just like couture, spandex isn’t easy. But this didn’t stop Demna and his studio to send out a line of models wearing spandex in the brightest colours and the most eye-catchy, floral prints. The stilettos (which transformed into leggings-like pants) were jaw-dropping. He kept them in purple, orange, pink and even white in order to nail it to the fullest. The semi-shoes, semi-pants looked eerily sexy and glamorous, to a surprise. Gvasalia’s thing for fetish didn’t end here: latex capes, extremely sleek silhouettes and patent leather were the show’s highlights, too.

Gvasalia’s troubled youth in Georgia affected his future mind. When he was young, he was starving for the new; now, he can easily convey those childhood cravings into a multifaceted collection for a very grown-up house. Striped market totes resembled the bags from bazaars, which stored fake Adidas and Levis, so well-remembered to the generation of the post-Iron Curtain. Ornamental brooches made me think of cheesy souvenirs which are easily available in the nearest Euro-shop. The nails with zircons had a lot to do with the 2000s Paris Hilton over-the-top style. And then, the music that still hides in the depths of your grandpa’s Nokia: Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and Chris Isaak’s “Wicked Game“. The final effect? Demna left the guests panting and drooling over his jackets with shoulder pads, granny dresses and trench-parkas.

It certainly was his year.

#2016 – Jacquemus


It’s Paris, and it feels like a breath of fresh air coming along Jacquemus‘ autumn-winter 2016. The city of French fashion is undergoing a wave of youthful talent – and Simon Porte Jacquemus represents that perfectly with his extraordinary, yet wearable garments. “I would like there to be less industry and more poetry” is what he declared backstage, minutes before the show. It was all about a surrealist illusion this season – the dresses floated in the air and spaghetti straps were magically elevated above the shoulders. The exaggerated shoulders, although distinctly reminded the old, good Martin Margiela, introduced us to other arty shapes and geometric cuts – sometimes, they looked even too grotesque, as in case of the “mini-skirt” worn with a pastel-blue turtleneck. But what was the most genuine from the entire collection was the expanded accessory line – block-heeled “rond carré” shoes, asymmetrical gloves in tangerine orange and cute, kidney-shaped bags are the highlights.

Jacquemus frequently mentions his typically French child-hood as a continous inspiration for his collections and spring-summer 2017 is not an exception. But his newest “story”, as he tends to call it, is much more refined. The designer searched deep in Provençal folk culture, and he conveyed the mood of a sun-drenched, care-free French village girl in a brilliant way.

Jacquemus loves the term ‘naive’. There’s always something childish about his collections – for SS17, it’s definitely the setting of his venue: a fake, orange sun glowed at the end of the runway, radiating with summer nostalgia. First element of the show that caught my eye was a range of lovely, straw hats, or chapeau de paille if you prefer French. The dresses with voluminous sleeves and over-sized pinstripe suits are on everybody’s lips for spring, but Simon managed to make them look eternally chic. In fact, the collection isn’t about a new idea or silhouette. Borrowed-from-a-guy shirt, block-heeled shoes, geometrical culottes and sexy cuts are very Jacquemus. I guess that’s the appeal of this collection: it’s focused on weekend-perfect ready-to-wear with an arty twist.

Simon is the designer, who brings joy to the fashion industry – looking at his collections, you can forget about the world for at least a second.

#2016 – Alessandro Michele


The old new identity implemented by Alessandro Michele for Gucci is well-known to all of us – and within the autumn-winter 2016 season, the designer has his first year as the creative director of the womenswear line behind. The “renaissance” mood Alessandro brings back to fashion deserves applause and praise. Noting that he has utterly revamped the pretentious sleek Italian empire into a brand, which considers Italian craftsmanship as priority, makes Michele’s warm softness more than a trend. It’s about his personal style, and his adoration to old, Italian paintings, antique rings and 70s / 80s attitude.

Just a few weeks before Britain’s choice whether to remain or stay in European Union, London has suddenly become the capital of resort 2017 collections. Firstly, Dior showed its mild collection in Blenheim Palace; secondly, Alessandro Michele, the creative director of Gucci, proved that Italian fashion goes in pair with anglomania. Covered with dark-green, needlepoint cushions, the famous Westminster Abbey was transformed into a venue for the most eccentric Michele’s show up to date (note: every show by Gucci gets even more peculiar and twisted…). Gucci girls and Gucci boys went down the Gothic church, all bold and playful, reivisiting cult fashion tribes of London. From Camden Market loving geeks to Rolling Stones fanatics in slim denim trousers and t-shirts (with old-school GUCCI logos – next season’s must-have), Alessandro praised Britain’s biggest style eras in this extremely non-chalant outing.

To dive in this gothic sea of inspiration!” he began. “The punk, the Victorian, the eccentric—with this inspiration, I can work all my life!” The former, origing from Vivienne Westwood’s rebellious times of SEX boutique and Sex Pistols costumes, was reflected in tartan ball gown and badass, yet classy attitude of the clothes. One of the jackets was a perfect Victoriana sleeve sample, but all in baby-pink astrakhan fur; Thatcher-era Kensington grannies crossed the abbey during the show, wearing printed silk dresses and foulards on their heads; there was even a Spice Girl moment which will be remembered for long in the industry – rainbow striped platform sneakers HAPPENED, spicing it all up. It’s not a surprise that Alessandro thought of Scottish kilts, too – they were worn casually with lady-like, blue pea-coats. Chic, right?

Glittering with over 250,000 mirrored sequins, the all-pink venue of Gucci spring-summer 2017 collection reminded a high-profile striptease club. The released mist reassembled cigarette smoke, while the velvet stools and sofas suggested one thing – Alessandro Michele is not a step closer to such thing as “minimalism” this season. Indeed, the collection had something to do with trashy chic – just have a look at the extremely platformed footwear. “Prostitute in Venice used to wear these“, the designer said backstage, while discussing his references and inspirations. Red latex tights, worn casually with knitted skirts, screamed “sex”, too. Alessandro’s mind is not that innocent, after all.

There are different types of “love”, and there is a variety of romantic accents in Michele’s kitsch-appealing clothing. As always, the outing featured a line of polished and refined ready-to-wear, which has a lot to do with alta moda, as the Italians tend to say. Knitted cardigan featuring a monkey embroidery illustrated by artist Jayde Fish; satin gown with pineapple style sleeves, detailed with sequins and intricate embellishments; tulle dress with tapestry-like florals and a leather corset. Each piece might become a go-to for a fancy date, a boudoir night or an intoxicating night-clubbing. Michele never keeps himself distant from emotions in his fashion. This collection is connected to the intense topic of love, even if we mean a wounded, broken heart. One of the evening dresses had an embroidered, red heart in the front, stabbed with a dagger – is the ethereal woman wearing it ready for a night out, but without her parter? She’s sad, but she looks spectacular and very dramatic. A bamboo fan is even more ambiguous. The slogan on it stated “Blind for love” in gothic font, and Alessandro definitely relates to that as a designer searching for beauty, and a person in real life.

#2016 – Christelle Kocher


Seeing Lindsey Wixson walk down the crowdy alley in Parisian La Canopée isn’t a usual, everyday sight. And it’s even stranger, when you wonder whether it’s really her, or an interestingly dressed passer-by. Christelle Kocher, the designer behind Koché, is obsessed with elevating street wear, and she’s the only designer who literally takes her clothes to the streets. For autumn-winter 2016, she invited the fashion crowd to Passage du Prado, a home of cheap phone stores and cheesy hair-dressers; her spring-summer 2017 was seen by anyone who was running their errands in this gigantic, commercial spot.

Kocher’s latest outing was filled with her quite well recognisable signatures. She works at Maison Lemarié, a couture atelier specialising in feathers, so that’s why her off-the-street (or not) parkas and sweatshirts were all about excessive layers of ostrich plume. Velour sweatpants with a multi-coloured, zipped track jackets (my middle-school P.E. memories go posh) – a thing for dressing in anti-fashion way is intense here, too. Adwoa Aboah sported a not-your-average-cross-fit bra-top, while meticulously embroidered slip-dresses never looked so… effortless. I know this sounds cliché, but admit – Koché is a brand, which fuses the idea of “on-the-go” with minute attention to detail, close to haute couture level. The styling of the show felt absolutely spontaneous, and both the street-cast, and professional agency models seemed to enjoy the nature of this show.

It seems that Koché appeared on the industry’s mind just this year – so be sure to have this brand on your radar in 2017.

#2016 – Simone Rocha


I always praise Simone Rocha for being an independent fashion designer, who doesn’t fall into the trend of having pre-collections. And that’s truly rare in today’s industry. Two collections a year gives Rocha the time and space for the creative process, which is so in demand at the moment – very few can deliver it under this unbearable pressure. But 2016 wasn’t only a highlight for Rocha in her professional life, but also in her private life. Being a new mom and working in fashion simultaenously is a big achievement. Surprisinly, this meant creativity boost for autumn-winter 2016, letting Rocha look deeper into the meaning of “baby-boom”. “I started to do this wrapping and swaddling with stoles. There’s something a bit surgical and matronly going on—sick-y nudes, the lilac of the uniforms that nurses used to wear. Medical aprons; knitting as women do when there’s a baby coming; schlumpy, relaxed shapes—and a little bit of trauma!” Yep, this doesn’t sound like your average post-pregnancy reflection.

Indeed, the autumn-winter 2016 collection had a lot to do with nurse uniforms, being psychedelically revamped with a various shades of pink. The fur stoles and fluffy Mary-Jane flats gave the feeling of babyish innocence, but that can’t be said of the darker dresses and coats – Rocha’s “matrons” with strict black bows lurk from the Victorian history of hospitals that up to now haunt Irish tales and stories. The woman behind AW16’s plot is both, sweet and sour – she might be a Lolita, Mary Poppins or Jane Eyre one day – and she is blooming just as the designer herself.

Staying true to her romantic spirit, Simone Rocha staged her spring-summer 2017 show in Southwark Cathedral, where the models walked down the gothic aisle. The venue matched the charming sublimity of Rocha’s latest line of delicate textures and girlie silhouettes, and it smoothly worked with the collection’s British accents and the designer’s long-term inspirations. Voluminous poplin-cotton shirts were layered with Prince of Wales checks; a classic trench-coat has never looked like a Louise Bourgeois sculpture before. While working on the collection, the designer took a glance at baptismal gowns and communion dresses, reworking them in authentic broderie anglaise lace. But don’t expect to see a traditional wedding dress here. Simone Rocha’s fascination with perversion oozes in those not-so-bride-ready gowns. Although we’re talking about sacred and holy, the designer’s pieces are far from innoncent. Sheer organza sheath with elongated sleeves shyly exposed nipples, while a tulle skirt with embroidered flowers showed some leg… accidentally. Note the models’ patent wellies and synthetic-white, rubber gloves. Red lips and wet hair. Rocha’s Catholic girls coming from good village families are naughty. In a very elusive, gentle way.

What will 2017 mean for Rocha?

Your wardrobe needs… Simone Rocha buckle heelsSimone Rocha embroidered tulle top & Simone Rocha ruffled skirt.