Is there any reason why you should buy a 900 dollar t-shirt? I’ve been asking myself that question ever since I first read that French designer brand, Vetements (which means clothing in French), were scheduled to release a black cotton t-shirt with a print of a young Snoop Dogg as part of their Autumn Winter 2016 collection. The t-shirt is a replica of a concert tee from 1993. My first reaction was you must be joking! I was equally horrified when they had previously released a 300 dollar DHL logo t-shirt. But the more that I think about it, the more it makes sense to me.
Vetements is easily the the most talked about high fashion label in years
The Vetements design collective is spearheaded by the Georgian born Demna Gvasalia. Vetements is easily the the most talked about high fashion label in years – little is known who else is in this group (check out an article in i-D magazine about the collective here). The brand first released a collection back in 2014 and they had a meteoric rise from the get go. The clothes in themselves (and their prices) very much makes Vetements profile reflect the high end of the fashion market. In a few short seasons they have managed to define a look that owes equal parts to luxury brands like Maison Margiela and Louis Vuitton (both companies that Gvasalia has worked with before) as it does to classic streetwear, with it’s oversized hoodies and ironical prints.
Balenciaga represents the traditional fashion house and Vetements is the new kid on the block.
Gvasalia who took over last year from Alexander Wang as creative director at Balenciaga, splits his time between the two very different companies: Balenciaga represents the traditional fashion house and Vetements is the new kid on the block. Gvasalia presented his first men’s collection for Balenciaga this past June in Paris, looking at the boxy silhouettes you can definitely see the kinship to his work on Vetements. I I tried to secure an interview with Demna or his younger brother Guram who is the ‘numbers guy’ for Vetements, but I was told that they were too busy working on the next collection. I’m sure that I’m not the first person who wanted to ask them what their thinking was behind having a 900 dollar t-shirt. I was also told that they don’t do press releases (the hype surrounding the brand generates enough exposure on it’s own). But they did confirm for me that the clothes they produce are made in ‘Europe’.
The brand’s luxury is no longer defined by just the quality of the product, but by its exclusivity.
Vetements started out as womenswear but with it’s sudden mass appeal in the fashion world it has branched out into menswear too, showing both in a single collection. Luxury fashion has always had a high price tag, which is normally reflected in the quality of any given product. But when you are asking for $900 for a t-shirt, or $3000 for a parka, what are you trying to say? By placing an obscene price tag it automatically makes it hard to obtain, by releasing it in limited quantities it makes it all the more unattainable. The brand’s luxury is no longer defined by just the quality of the product, but by its exclusivity. There are obviously no figures to show how ‘limited’ these items actually are. It is up to the buyer to decide just how much you are willing to pay for the trendiest label on earth. It remains to be seen will Vetements strategy be one that endures or whether it will sizzle out when the next hot thing comes around.
They are definitely reaching an audience that is hungry for the next big thing
Gvasalia Vetements streetwear simplicity and unconstructed style definitely owe a big debt to his time at Maison Margiela, but they also reminded me a lot of early Raf Simons when he was exploring youth culture in the early 2000s. Their use of non-professional models and showing their collections in quirky places, is hardly a new thing, but they are definitely reaching an audience that is hungry for the next big thing. Vetements have proclaimed that they will stop showing their collections in the traditional time frame and will instead show in January and July, which means this year they will show a uni-sex collection during couture week in Paris on July 3rd. But this too seems to be following the current trend of brands trying to shake up the all too predictable time schedules and to meet the pressures of fast fashion. By showing both collections early it gives them the opportunity to sell the clothes to retailers earlier and for retailers to get stock on shelves earlier and to allow for a longer season to sell the collection. Vetements have said themselves that they want to tap into the see now, buy now trend.
It has come to light over the last couple of weeks that the Vetements Spring Summer 2017 collection will be entirely composed of collaborations with a wide variety of brands, including Levi’s, Champion, Alpha Industries, Schott, Canada Goose and Brioni. This indeed is a novel concept: while labels often collaborate on individual products the idea of creating a whole collection in such a manner may well be something we see more of in the future. Vetements collaborative choices are interesting for they are brands that Vetements have ‘borrowed’ from in the past. Gvasalia has said that they wanted to partner with brands that are known for producing the best quality products. Who better than Alpha Industries to produce a flight jacket or Champion for a hoodie?
But I say yes – go out and buy a 900 dollar t-shirt if you’re that hungry to have the latest fashion statement. Alternatively, go out and buy something from Vetements which isn’t just a billboard to say that you have money. Their collections have some great pieces that are at the apex of the current zeitgeist.