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‘Fashion doesn’t matter now’: Balenciaga pays tribute to Ukraine’s refugees | Paris fashion week

The women and men stumbled by means of the snow, heads bowed towards the wind. Shivering in flimsy layers, they carried their possessions in sacks.

The snow was pretend, and Kim Kardashian was watching from the entrance row. The flimsy layers will value 1000’s, and the fashions wore spike-heeled thigh-high boots. But in per week when greater than 1 million Ukrainians have been pressured to flee their houses, the allusion at this Balenciaga catwalk present was clear.

It was an uncomfortable watch, and veered perilously near utilizing a humanitarian disaster as an aesthetic. Yet it was additionally, for a lot of within the viewers, a humane and highly effective present of empathy, an emotion not typically seen on the catwalk.

And for Balenciaga’s artistic director, Demna, it was private. “The war in Ukraine has triggered the pain of a past trauma I have carried in me since 1993, when the same thing happened in my home country,” wrote the designer, who as a 12-year-old was one among 250,000 Georgians pressured from their houses by Abkhazian separatists throughout his nation’s civil struggle, crossing the Caucasus mountains along with his household.

A word left on every of the 525 seats, together with a T-shirt within the colors of the Ukrainian flag, mentioned that whereas “fashion week feels like some kind of an absurdity”, to cancel the present would have meant “surrendering to the evil that has already hurt me so much for almost 30 years”.

“It was me,” the designer mentioned backstage of the present when it completed. “I was seeing myself, 30 years ago, as a child in a shelter, not knowing if the roof would fall on my head.” Navigating the dissonance between style week and struggle is such treacherous territory that almost all designers merely steer nicely clear, however Demna was emboldened by his private historical past.

Models at the Balenciaga show walk through fake snow.
Models on the Balenciaga present stroll by means of pretend snow. Photograph: Balenciaga

While the fashions walked, the designer, who lived as a refugee in Ukraine and Moscow earlier than settling in Dusseldorf, recited a poem in Ukrainian which, he mentioned, translated alongside the traces of “your sons will save you”.

“It was an art installation. It had something beautiful to say,” mentioned the actor Salma Hayek, carrying the blue and yellow T-shirt over her Balenciaga outfit as she waited to congratulate the designer.

Demna insisted that the medium of style was irrelevant to the message of the present. “Fashion doesn’t matter now. The message must be love and peace, and fashion has to assume a strong position in this crisis.”

Still, the context, as a part of a showcase for a luxurious items home – one whose final boss is Hayek’s husband François-Henri Pinault, CEO of Kering – is sure to strike an off-key word for a lot of observers. Balenciaga has paused buying and selling in Russia for now, and is supporting the World Food Programme operation to assist individuals fleeing the struggle.

When the present was deliberate six months in the past, the snow scene was supposed as a touch upon the local weather emergency. “It was about what snow might mean in the future. And by the future, I mean now – when there are ski resorts that don’t have snow any more,” mentioned Demna, who not makes use of his surname, Gvasalia. “But then it took on a whole different meaning, because of the crisis we are in.”

After a gradual begin, the style business has joined in with sanctions towards Russia. Louis Vuitton, Dior, Hermès, Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Saint Laurent, Cartier and Burberry have closed their Russian shops and paused on-line buying and selling, as have excessive avenue manufacturers Zara, which operates 502 Russian shops, and H&M.

LVMH, which has 124 shops in Russia throughout manufacturers together with Vuitton and Dior, confirmed they’d proceed to pay their 3,500 staff there, as did Chanel, which has 17 standalone shops throughout Russia in addition to mini boutiques inside shops, using 371 individuals.

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