Born in 1981 in Soviet Georgia, Vetements designer and Balenciaga’s Art Director Demna Gvasalia was announced a person of the year by the fashion industry’s leading media Business of Fashion today. Earlier this month the designer received even two awards at the British Fashion Awards ceremony for his work at Balenciaga as well as Vetements. But what does it mean for a ‘child’ of the Soviet Union – it’s huge. Only post-Soviet kids will understand why Demna’s contemporaries didn’t consider fashion as a ‘real’ career.
Here are the 5 facts about Demna Gvasalia that only those of us who grew in the Soviet Union will get.
- You should have a ‘serious’ career
Most of the children born in the Soviet Union were expected to be lawyers, bankers or medical doctors (if clever enough), any other career was not necessarily considered as reasonable aka ‘profitable’, especially the creative industry. No surprise, that Demna was supposed to work in a Bank when his family moved to Dusseldorf in 2000. He decided to finally follow his passion instead and moved to Antwerp to study fashion design.
- DHL T-Shirt that your dad wore
A DHL T-Shirt for SS16 at Vetements (initially sold for £185) and other similar 90’s makeovers might seem exotic to the cool kids of 2016. But this is exactly what our Soviet dads were wearing in 1985. People in the Soviet Union didn’t have much choice thus wearing branded ts or hoodies was out of necessity, not fashion. “Everybody dressed the same because there was no choice.” Said Gvasalia in the interview for Vogue Japan with Suzy Menkes. Which brings me to another point.
- Lack of Diversity
“In my adolescent years, until 1993, we were living in the Soviet Union; we had no information. The first ever fashion magazine I saw was Vogue”, Gvasalia remembers in the same interview for Vogue. This is something that all of the Soviet-born kids remember. Lack of access to diversity –cultural, information, any diversity. Soviet children had to wear uniforms but at the same time had to be creative with limited means. When the Soviet walls broke, they had a sudden overload of information. The Western World seemed completely different from the realities they faced.
“You have to keep in mind that I was already 19 years old when I arrived in Germany, so there was a delay. What other people had known at 12, I was now just discovering and exploring. <…> But the lack of means pushes you further”, Gvasalia explains in the interview for 032c.com.
4. Speak more than one language by default
Demna Gvasalia speaks six languages Georgian, English, German, Russian, French, Italian and Flemish. Not all the people born in the Soviet Union speak as many as 6 languages but most of them, who were born at the similar time as Gvasalia, on the verge of Soviet collapse, speak or at least can converse in three: their native, Russian and some other than Russian (as an anti-Soviet statement).
- Your Birthday party at McDonald’s
“ I remember I celebrated my birthday there once, and it was like “Wow!” It was like going to Caviar Kaspia here in Paris. It was so colourful, and Happy Meals made people happy”, a perfect memory by Demna Gvasalia that only us, who were born in the Soviets can remember as a fact, no as a fun fact. McDonald’s was the first sign of westernisation, and this was a symbol of a joyful place for children (to play, not to eat junk food).
Interested in Eastern European aesthetics? Read more on Fashion Bloc.