The Child of War and Balenciaga

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Lately, I have been thinking a lot about what to write. I have been writing and, then, deleting paragraphs over paragraphs. Should I write about the House of Gucci? Or black history month, perhaps? Although, I have decided to tell a story of the Balenciaga 2022 Winter collection by Demna, reflecting on what is happening in the world now and being a child of the war.

I do not remember much from my childhood. But I do remember the war. In fact, it is the only thing I remember.

It was a lot for a seven-year-old to comprehend, and while she was holding her favorite teddy as tight as she could, her world became as chaotic as atomic particles in the air. The fear in people’s eyes; tears streaming down their faces; anger powering the veins on the forehead; despair in the voices, and grief of loss and helplessness. The war ended. Time went day by day, but the fear remained. 

Fourteen years have passed since the war of 2008. It seems enough amount of years to heal the traumas of the past, but the truth is, it never does. One morning, I woke up and saw my worst nightmare had struck upon Ukraine. The day I dreaded the most had happened. The war had started. The war had started not in my country, but it sure felt like it did. The fear, tears, despair, grief, and worst of all – helplessness flashed right in front of my eyes, once again. 

What is happening in Ukraine is the blueprint of what happened in Georgia in 1992 and 2008. Same script, different font, so to say. “You are the child of war” – my mom has repeatedly been telling me throughout the past ten days, but now, I want to tell a story of another child of the war who is refining fashion. 

The world is actively watching influencers and celebrities. What they will do, and what they are going to say. Especially now when the world needs to know what is happening in Ukraine, in the middle of Europe. Although some public figures, unfortunately, decided to stay silent, Demna Gvasalia once again exceeded himself. Yesterday, on March 6th, Balenciaga by Demna tributed to Ukraine. “A dedication to fearlessness, to resistance, and to the victory of love and peace,” said Demna before reading a poem in Ukrainian. He even placed the t-shirts in the colors of the Ukrainian flag on each chair for the guests. 

While the war started at the same time as the fashion week, one part of the world acted as if nothing was happening and was enjoying the beauty of fashion, while the other was suffering and crying for the horrors of the war. In response, Demna made a loud statement that fashion does not matter in these times and even loses its right to exist. Even though he thought of canceling the show, the Georgian designer did not let himself sink in the pain and evil he had experienced for almost 30 years, since he had to flee from his home, Abkhazia, in 1993 when Abkhazia was officially declared to be occupied by Russia. 

This is not the first time Demna has dedicated his work to the war and his heritage; let’s dial back in Vetements Spring SS19 ready-to-wear collection, where he committed the whole collection to Georgia and post soviet era. Although the Vetements SS19 Collection carried the mentality and the symbolism of his early years, last night’s show gave us the insights of being a refugee, walking into the blizzards, towels covering the bodies, and belongings stuffed down in the plastic bags. And Just like that, Demna imitated the immigration through the mountains of Georgia he endured in 1993 and dedicated his collection to Ukraine by pridefully closing the show with blue and yellow fashion pieces, displaying the Ukrainian flag. 

While Elle Russia gives tips on buying fashion pieces online since most of the brands have left the Russian market, or where to buy secondhand Gucci sneakers and Burberry coats, Demna will always be there to stand for the truth, make us feel emotions, and reassure us that we still are human beings. 

Link to the whole show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTXbCdS5hdY&ab_channel=Balenciaga

By Tamar Petashvili