This year, The Business of Fashion will honour Demna with the Global VOICES award, recognising his outstanding impact in fashion and society. Each year, the award is presented to an extraordinary member of the international fashion community during BoF’s annual gathering for big thinkers.
Demna’s fashion story is one of disruption: from his early knack for meme-able fashion hits to his resurrection of Balenciaga’s couture line, the designer has brought radical new energy to the industry with a creative vision that is both luxury and street, straightforward and complex.
But Demna is known as much for his socio-political critique as his bold experimentation with construction and silhouette. Over the years, he has consistently used his platform to interrogate thorny topics from globalisation and gender inclusion to the climate crisis and how technology and celebrity culture are reshaping society. What’s more, his creative commentary is often accompanied by real-world action: under the artistic directorship of Demna, Balenciaga has forged partnerships with charities including the United Nations World Food Programme and OutRight Action International, an LGBTQI human rights organisation.
Most recently, Demna turned his attention to the war in Ukraine. In the wake of Russia’s invasion of the country, he was one of the few public figures in fashion to address the humanitarian crisis head-on, first on social media and then with a dystopian fashion show that Vogue Ukraine’s fashion director, Vena Brykalin, called “important and brave.”
At the event, Demna paid tribute to resistance with a poem by Ukrainian poet Oleksandr Oles, who died while fleeing the Nazis in 1944, before models wearing Balenciaga’s latest Autumn/Winter collection trudged through an artificial snowstorm, dragging their possessions in trash bags as explosion-like flashes lit up the skyline.
“It proved that we as an industry can and should address what is happening in the world,” Brykalin wrote in an op-ed for BoF.
For Demna, who fled his native Georgia at age 12 following Russia’s invasion of the country, his response was as personal as it was emotive. “The war in Ukraine has triggered the pain of a past trauma I have carried in me since 1993,” the designer, who has called himself a “lifelong refugee,” wrote in a letter published alongside the show.
This week, the designer was enlisted by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to raise money and awareness for United24′s Rebuild Ukraine, a charity fund dedicated to restoring critical infrastructure in the country.
At BoF VOICES 2022, Demna will participate in an on-stage conversation before being honoured at the annual VOICES gala on Dec. 1 at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire.
Request an invitation to attend BoF Voices 2022, which takes place from November 29-December 2, 2022 at Soho Farmhouse in Oxfordshire.