The Georgian fashion expert behind @demnagram

Six years ago, Saba Bakhia was a mere admirer of the Balenciaga creative director's work. Now, he's got a rare, coveted co-sign.

by Douglas Greenwood
20 July 2022, 11:35am

Image via @sababakhia

In the age of social media overexposure, where sharing everything risks ruining the mystique of art, a designer’s digital footprint matters. We’ve seen it already, as Bottega Veneta, then under the helm of Daniel Lee, opted to go literally ‘off-grid’, wiping the brand’s Instagram account clean. Last summer, Balenciaga did something similar, an unsurprising move considering its creative director Demna’s own IG grid is completely empty. Instead, his admirers have gone to @demnagram, the digital brainchild of Georgian fashion obsessive Saba Bakhia, to keep up to date with his career.

The account — a support page, not a fan page, Saba is keen to stress — chronicles any developments in the world of Demna, be it new Balenciaga collections, product launches and campaigns, or professional achievements, like his recent placing in the Time Influential People list.

The @demnagram biography reads: “Supporter of @Demna. SUPPORTED BY @BALENCIAGA.” As of March 2022, Saba has worked with the house to ensure the information that reaches his near-200k followers is accurate and in keeping with the spirit of the brand and its elusive creative director.

Here, the 22-year-old explains how a single Facebook message started his journey to becoming a staple part of team Balenciaga, he and Demna’s shared Georgian heritage, and what it feels like to be invited to a Balenciaga show.

You first communicated with Demna via Facebook in his early days at Balenciaga. Can you remember what you wrote in that message?

My first communication with Demna was in 2016 via Facebook. I was amazed by his talent, and I wanted to express my respect towards him, so I texted him one sentence: “You’re simply the best”. That was our first communication. Then, before @demnagram even existed, Demna sent me an inspirational message: "Believe in yourself and follow your dreams, they will always bring you to good places." He gave me a whole new life.

When you started @demnagram, what were your intentions with the account?

I wanted to pay homage to what Demna is doing at Balenciaga. I think fashion [exists] before and after him. His vision for the brand is groundbreaking, and every show that Demna puts on can be called a real art performance.

You have mentioned that @demnagram is a ‘support’ account, not a ‘fan’ account. Why was it important to establish that difference?

To me, there is a big difference. Sometimes fan pages are like stalkers, gossiping and sharing very personal things about celebrities — but that’s not my style. I don’t like it. Demna is an extremely private person. Demna is one of the artists who prefers to communicate through his work. That’s why @demnagram is concentrated on Demna's work only, and not his personal life.

You share a heritage with Demna — you’re both from Georgia. What parts of your country’s DNA bleed into the work of Demna?

That is one of the reasons why his collections touch me differently. Georgia has played an important part in Demna’s personal and professional development; he grew up observing what Georgian women wore. As a result, each collection says a bit about our country and taste, like a general view of what's fashionable here. Demna is a storyteller and designer, and his stories are so personal. From the Georgian perspective — the feeling of dramatism; the colour black; oversized silhouettes; sadness and celebration at the same time — it’s so accurate to our culture. In Georgia, black represents everything. We wear it everywhere, from funerals to weddings. 

Until recently, we didn’t have fashion magazines — but especially in the 90s, people didn’t know anything about fashion designers or trends, but we were still wearing oversized black clothes. If you were not super rich,  your parents would buy clothes two or three years in advance, so you could grow into them. It may sound funny, but that was our reality. We wore clothes from cousins who were four or five years older. So yeah, we didn’t know about the shapes of Margiela or Balenciaga, but we were still wearing oversized T-shirts and pants. That’s very vivid and important in Demna’s fashion world now.

Do you see Instagram as a curatorial space on a par with an art gallery

Nowadays, social media is such an important tool but it’s not easy to do it right. It is a new way for young creatives to discover their own style. In today’s reality, Instagram can be used as a curatorial space which is almost on a par with an art gallery because Instagram has visual storytelling power. There are many examples of this, but I don’t see Demnagram that way. I think Demnagram is more of a news-media platform.

You now work with Balenciaga on the page. When did they get involved? How does their influence affect it? 

In March, I started working with the brand. @demnagram is officially supported by Balenciaga, and this is the greatest honour to work with the team for Demna. From the beginning, he gave me freedom on my account, and that’s is so important to me because I have my own strategy. The Balenciaga team is always with me to assist me on anything. With the help of them, my page is more reliable for people than ever. They send me everything in advance for my account and that helps me a lot. I never post rumours, leaked images, or anything that is not confirmed or released by Balenciaga directly.

You’re now invited to the shows. What does it feel like to rub shoulders with others who’ve been co-signed by Demna?

When I decided to create @demnagram, I never would have imagined that one day I would attend the Balenciaga show, have the chance to meet so many incredible people, and start working with the brand. It's more than a dream come true. I was invited by Demna himself; he knew what it would mean to me to be invited by him. I have never attended the fashion weeks, not even in Georgia, so Balenciaga was my first ever show. I met people who work with Demna and they were so kind to me. Obviously, I was so nervous, but thanks to them, everything went well.