A model walks the runway during the Balenciaga Ready to Wear Spring/Summer 2022 fashion show as part of the Paris Fashion Week on October 2, 2021 in Paris, France.
Victor Virgile—Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images
March 30, 2022 6:21 AM EDT

Thanks to creative director Demna, luxury powerhouse Balenciaga is not only reflecting the cultural zeitgeist, it’s also driving it. The Georgian designer, who stopped using his last name, Gvasalia, professionally in 2021, showed the fashion house’s first couture collection in 50 years, and broke convention by producing virtual Fortnite apparel and a real-life Simpsons collection. Demna’s disruptive approach to design—by turns tongue-in-cheek and abrasive—has shaken up the fashion industry, attracted influential devotees and collaborators like Kim Kardashian and Kanye West (who enlisted Demna to collaborate on his Donda shows and a Yeezy Gap x Balenciaga project), and resulted in revenue to the tune of nearly $2 billion. Demna’s recent show in Paris—which took place just days after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and featured models trudging through snow with large bags—demonstrated the former Georgian refugee’s ability to quickly synthesize and respond to world events through fashion.

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Write to Cady Lang at cady.lang@timemagazine.com.

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