Vetements has been struggling with keeping its momentum for a few seasons now, and some even say it officially started to “flop”. But the autumn-winter 2022 look-book has some pretty good clothes that make you think of the brand as a place for great tailoring rather than sweatshirts and viral moments. Indeed, the collection focuses on a more luxurious look – even though it kind of contradicts Vetements’ original memo. During a preview with Vogue, Guram Gvasalia was talking about Bitcoin and social media millionaires. “The early 20th century couturiers focused on industry tycoons who made money with oil, real estate, chocolate bars,” he said. “This collection is pushing to redefine the couture and the savoir faire for the new era” – for the new luxury shopper. If you see something cynical in the money prints and lotto card motifs you aren’t in on the joke. “The Gvasalias” is printed in what looks like The Simpsons font on the inside of a t-shirt; that’s a nod to Guram’s brother Demna’s spring 2022 Balenciaga show. Then there’s the fact that all but one of the 72 looks features a mask – a mask not unlike the one worn by Demna at that show and also at the Met Gala, where his famous date was similarly accoutred. “The truth is in today’s world dominated by social media – and a sometimes toxic environment – you don’t need to be Kim Kardashian to need some privacy in your life,” Guram explained. For the record, he added that masks have been part of the Vetements lexicon for years. Sibling dynamics aside, there were some notable developments here, mostly involving Vetements’s signature tailoring. The opening look’s button-down, trousers, jacket, and long coat are all made from the jersey typically used for t-shirts and hoodies, a post-lockdown innovation that addresses conflicting urges to dress up and stay comfortable. “You can throw them in your suitcase and start traveling again,” Gvasalia said. The team also experimented with “digital 3-D pattern modifications” that give straight-cut jackets a couture-ish hourglass shape. And they designed down jackets and jeans with built-in zippers so wearers can modify the silhouettes as they see fit. Other looks layer oversize tees on top of jackets and shirts, a counterintuitive idea that nonetheless looks distinctive. That brings it back around to the new gen, who have an uncanny way of making the counterintuitive suddenly look right.
Vetements isn’t what it used to be, and for a couple of seasons now – ironically – the label feels like a mimic of itself. Since Demna Gvasalia’s departure from the label to focus solely on Balenciaga, the brand seems to put emphasis on more commercial stuff. Still, in the spring-summer 2022 look-book featuring over a hundred looks, there are some bits of the Vetements energy that made the brand so controversial (and appealing) a couple of years ago. The checked backdrop of the collection will be familiar to Photoshop users. It’s the background against which graphic designers do their work, and it offers a hint as to what’s on cofounder Guram Gvasalia’s mind. He told Vogue he’s been thinking a lot about our digital existence: “I started to ask myself: What is reality today? We live in this 2D world; the question is, when you scroll through Instagram, is it photoshopped or is it real?” Here’s another one: “Do we consume the internet or does it consume us?” Public opinion may be souring on Silicon Valley, but its digital products have us more firmly in their grip than ever. The pandemic deepened our connections with our computers and smartphones, even as we longed to reacquaint ourselves with nature. The jumbled wires of server farms and a computer font straight out of The Matrix (a timely reference, with The Matrix 4 due out at Christmas) mix with pixelated salamanders and flower prints so bright they almost glow. For every shell suit there was a siren-y gown, and logo-stamped jeans were dressed up with a seriously sharp double trench. The masculine tailoring with its strong shoulder lines, the floral dresses, the puffers and parkas – it’s all about the Vetements foundation pieces. And the slogan tees and hoodies are cleverer than ever; “The Devil Doesn’t Wear Prada” example, Gvasalia said, is an idea he pinned to his mood board some time ago, for a would-be collaboration. A flame print that appeared on a wrap dress and matching boots, among other sportier pieces, was reprised from the brand’s last time on the runway, circa autumn-winter 2020. The boldness of a Vetements show has been integral to the brand’s success from its start. The problem with 2D? It’s not 3D. Gvasalia seemed enthused about the prospect of returning to the runway post-pandemic. “We are 100% going back the moment we can travel,” he promised.
The autumn-winter 2020 collection by Vetements, the first since Demna Gvasalia’s departure, is 100% Vetements. “We want to strip down the bullshit of the industry,” summed up Guram Gvasalia, the brand’s co-founder. “Somehow in fashion the spotlight went away from the clothes,” he remarked, “and for me this is why people like Margiela are so iconic because he never appeared and it was always about the clothes.” So, flashlights were sent as invites, and an announcement was made at the beginning of the show that the audience should turn on their phone torches to be able to see it. Design-wise, the line-up was all about Vetements classics – over-sized duvet-jackets, heavy metal-inspired prints, hoodies and t-shirts with ironic signs, trench coats, leathers – with a bigger focus on tailoring. But what really struck (and confused) the audience was the model casting. The lookalike Kate Moss, Snoop Dog, Angelina Jolie, Sharon Stone and Naomi Campbell were all a surprise. “I would have loved to have the real Naomi,” Guram shrugged. “But as a young company I am afraid we cannot afford it.” The game of real or fake has always been part of the brand. Love it or hate it, but Vetements still knows how to catch the attention.
Believe it or not – I can’t! – but we’re heading towards a new millenium. So, how do you choose the most important collections, designers and labels of the decade? The ones that made an actual impact in the 2010s? Well, it’s not an easy task. It all began in September 2009 with New York’s spring-summer 2010 shows and ended when the autumn-winter 2019 haute couture shows wrapped in Paris. Few thousands of shows, by the way. There will be 19 posts (that’s really the only possible minimum!) reminding about the best – and if not the best, then strongly influencing – moments in fashion.
The phenomenon of Vetements.
Vetements. It sparks controversy, instant love (or hate), causes confusion and discomfort, makes you question fashion (and laugh at it!), it polarises its viewers… one thing’s sure, Vetements, in its six years of existence, never left a mild, plain impression. While the future of the label is quite unknown – the head of its design collective, Demna Gvasalia, parted ways with label to focus on Balenciaga – the body of work it has left in the latter half of the 2010s still surprises. From the „collaboration” collection (which featured tracksuits made in co-operation with Juicy Couture, tailoring done with Brioni or satin shoes created with Manolo Blahnik) to that one line-up that nodded to the history and the modern day state of Georgia (Gvasalia’s homeland), Vetements always focused on such un-fashion topics like politics or life in general (the autumn-winter 2019 had a word or two regarding our increasingly violent, voyeuristic and isolating society). Other memorable Vetements highlights? The infamous DHL t-shirt. That time when they showed in a sex club or in the cheesiest Chinese restaurant in the entire Paris (speaking of Vetements and food, they showed their SS20 in the most Vetements place ever – McDonald’s). And of course, you just can’t ignore the fact that Vetements changed fashion in the 2010s: over-sized hoodies, trashy looks, cowboys boots, post-Soviet aesthetic, second-wave obsession with Margiela – all that went (super) mainstream thanks to the label’s impact. Will it still affect (and disturb) fashion in the 2020s? Who knows.