Balenciaga’s Gvasalia throws spotlight on Ukraine

Demna Gvasalia, winner of the International Urban Luxury Brand award poses for photographers at the Fashion Awards 2016 in London, Britain December 5, 2016. REUTERS/Neil Hall/File Photo

PARIS, March 7 (Reuters) - Balenciaga creative director Demna Gvasalia threw the spotlight on the war in Ukraine, recalling his personal trauma as a refugee from Georgia at his winter show in Paris.

Guests were greeted with Ukrainian flag T-shirts and a note explaining that the war had triggered the pain of trauma the designer had carried since 1993, when "the same thing happened in my home country and I became a forever refugee".

"We, as a brand, have to do something ... we cannot take weapons and go fight there, but we can use our voices," Gvasalia told Reuters in an interview after the Paris Fashion Week presentation.

His show featured models marching through a blustery, glass-encased runway with swirling snow.

It kicked off with a woman in a black cape-like dress, swinging a sac resembling a stuffed plastic garbage bag. Others followed, walking against the wind in wide-leg trousers, oversize hoodies and floral-printed outfits.

An influential designer, Gvasalia played a central role in the rise of streetwear styles and is known for powerful runway presentations.

The designer said he had spent two years in Ukraine after the war in Georgia, where he still has family, before settling in Germany. Georgia, a former republic in the Soviet Union, was plunged into civil war after the break up of the bloc in 1991.

“When you go through war, you never forget that,” said the designer, whose native language is Russian.

Earlier this week, the Kering-owned label erased all images from its Instagram feed, which counts 12.8 million followers, leaving only an image of the Ukrainian flag, explaining that the platform would be used solely for relaying information about the situation in Ukraine.

Kering (PRTP.PA) on Friday announced the suspension of operations in Russia, temporarily shutting its two stores there. read more

Reporting by Laetitia Volga and Mimosa Spencer; Editing by Frances Kerry

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