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Guram Gvasalia vs Demna Gvasalia: Brotherly feud or media strategy?

The rivalry between the creative director of Balenciaga and the creative director of Vetements goes back a long way, but something smells like strategy. Could it all be a calculated maneuver to bring the former back under the spotlight?

One of the few public photographs of the Gvasalia brothers together: Demna (left) and Guram (right) at the 2016 Fashion Awards in London.
One of the few public photographs of the Gvasalia brothers together: Demna (left) and Guram (right) at the 2016 Fashion Awards in London.

The quarrel did not start on social media. The quarrel, as a matter of fact, is not even a quarrel. You’ve heard the old saying: it takes two to tango. And, for now, there have been no responses from Demna to Guram’s (alleged) attacks. The headlines, however, claim that the Gvasalia brothers are fighting, a story inflated through today’s usual channels — TikTok, Instagram, X — and one that provided some much-needed gossip in an otherwise forgettable Parisian Prêt-à-Porter Week (all bedbugs aside).

But if we are going to analyze it, we would have to start by clarifying that the so-called fight did not even start in the digital realm. Before Guram’s viral posts complaining about not having been invited to his mother’s debut as a Balenciaga model (last October 1, spring/summer 2024 collection; “Praying for my brother’s soul,” he remarked) or implying that Demna copies him (last Thursday, comparing a couple of dresses that seem to share an identical roll of sequin fabric in their DNA), came the statements that the current Vetements creative director gave to The New York Times at the beginning of July. “He had his good run of 10 years, and I think his era is slowly going to its finish line. Now it is my time,” he proclaimed, discrediting his older brother, emphasizing his own talents and taking a position similar to that of a Kylie Jenner, a phenomenal generational replacement of the Kardashian clan.

Guram shared this image of his mother, walking for Balenciaga, on Instagram. The picture was accompanied by a message for his brother: “Proud to see my Mom opening the Balenciaga show. Very sad that I was not invited to witness it. Praying for my brother’s soul. God bless him.”
Guram shared this image of his mother, walking for Balenciaga, on Instagram. The picture was accompanied by a message for his brother: “Proud to see my Mom opening the Balenciaga show. Very sad that I was not invited to witness it. Praying for my brother’s soul. God bless him.”

“He got certain opportunities in life earlier. But if you consider where I am today, where my brother was when he was my age, I think I’m far more advanced,” he brags at one point. Then he goes further: “honestly, I think all the brands in the world have done these kinds of dresses,” he declares. “They have a completely different construction, [but] if you look at them next to each other [Vetements’ and Balenciaga’s], ours are much better.” Finally, he laments: “Balenciaga always releases news on the day of our show. [For example] they announced Demna’s appointment on my birthday.” After that, it was all about consolidating the character that Guram has been working on since mid-2021, when he decided to rescue Vetements from ostracism.

A matter of alleged plagiarism: on the left, a design from Vetements’ spring/summer 2024 men’s collection (presented last June) and, on the right, one from the latest Balenciaga collection (the “other brand,” as Guram referred to it in an Instagram post that has since been deleted).
A matter of alleged plagiarism: on the left, a design from Vetements’ spring/summer 2024 men’s collection (presented last June) and, on the right, one from the latest Balenciaga collection (the “other brand,” as Guram referred to it in an Instagram post that has since been deleted).

It’s not like we’ve had the duo on our radar for long enough to know their personalities that well, either. Their names began to be heard in passing in 2014 when certain fashion publications turned Vetements into the cool name to drop in articles and conversations. Conceived in the Paris underground, the brand was presented as a collective, although it soon became known that Demna was the head of the creative team. A t-shirt with the logo and corporate colors of the DHL courier company and an exorbitant price were to blame. Under his shadow, Guram had the thankless role of CEO and head of commercial operations. What happened next is already part of the history of the fashion industry: riding the wave of a growing digital virality and meme culture, the Kering Group hired the designer for the position of creative director at Balenciaga in late 2015.

One year later, the shadow that the older brother cast from his flashy new position was so long that some considered Vetements finished. At the request of the younger one, the brand moved its headquarters to Zurich. Meanwhile, thanks to his success in Balenciaga, Demna finally left Vetements for good in 2019. That could have been the definitive trigger for the fraternal fracture and the alleged feud we are witnessing today. In any case, the younger brother grew: he relaunched the brand with the fall/winter 2022-23 collection and launched a subdivision, VTMNTS.

The DHL t-shirt (with corporate colors and an exorbitant price) that Vetements made viral after its spring-summer 2016 show.
The DHL t-shirt (with corporate colors and an exorbitant price) that Vetements made viral after its spring-summer 2016 show.

Guram’s gripe with Demna’s vision at Balenciaga is an old song, made to the tune of a shared story that, make no mistake, the former only began to exploit after presenting himself to the world as a creator. The story of war refugees, of displaced people who lost everything and had to build their lives from scratch, lied underneath Vetements’ concept, and has become increasingly evident in Balenciaga’s. Fashion critics and analysts buy into this narrative almost instantly, just as they do with that refreshing audacity of infusing working-class codes and marginalized youth subcultures into the luxurious playground of the rich and privileged. Do you want to show off and try to come off as an interesting fashion connoisseur by wearing the t-shirt of a precariously employed worker or the worn-out sneakers of a migrant? Okay, pay for it. Many still continue to take it as a bad joke. Tiresome. Also perverse.

The story of war refugees and displaced people who lost everything and had to build their lives from scratch, lied underneath Vetements’ concept, and has become increasingly evident in Balenciaga’s. On the left, fall-winter 2022/23; on the right, spring-summer 2023.
The story of war refugees and displaced people who lost everything and had to build their lives from scratch, lied underneath Vetements’ concept, and has become increasingly evident in Balenciaga’s. On the left, fall-winter 2022/23; on the right, spring-summer 2023.

Subject to a policy of silence, Demna has since tried to keep a low profile, speaking only when necessary. Meanwhile, Guram, unrestrained, has cultivated the image of a cool guy who eats Pringles with caviar, is closer to his brother’s famous friends and has better hair, to boot. In July, he announced with great fanfare that Madonna will wear Vetements on her next tour, Celebration, showing the photographic evidence on Instagram. Except for his brother’s show, this past Paris Fashion Week he was seen practically everywhere. And while we air every single move the youngest sibling makes, we end up bringing the older one back under the spotlight. Which is also not a bad (brotherly?) strategy to recover the influence he may have lost after the controversy.

Does Guram want to present himself like a Kylie Jenner, the generational replacement of the Kardashian clan? It looks like it, in a not-so-subtle way, with this (sold out) Vetements t-shirt.
Does Guram want to present himself like a Kylie Jenner, the generational replacement of the Kardashian clan? It looks like it, in a not-so-subtle way, with this (sold out) Vetements t-shirt.

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