What Political Statement is Vetements Making?

Couture week in Paris just ended. It’s a prelude to ready-to-wear collection season, which will commence in New York on February 10th. Vetements initiated a new habit last July when they showed SS 17 on the couture calendar among the artisanal wears of other labels. That collection was full of collaborations with off-the-radar heritage brands, like Champion and Canada Goose, as well as more curious ones like Juicy Couture (you can now buy a pair of velour sweatpants for over $1,000, in case you were interested.)

FW 17 was displayed this week among couture once again, but instead of focusing on the almost vulgar, if not specifically thoughtful and therefore exploitative collaborations that defined last season, it more acutely followed the initiatives set forth just a couple weeks ago at Balenciaga, also designed by Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia, during Men’s Fashion Week.

That show — with its Vermont dad corduroys and the kind of wide, chunky rubber sneakers you might expect to see strapped on to the feet of an IT support hero, exhibited a fierce political undertone with its homage to Bernie Sanders.

balenciaga bernie sanders demna gvasalia man repeller

This week, a vast majority of the gender-nonpartisan ready-to-wear collection from Vetements weaved a new layer into the story of the absurd and the ironic that is becoming emblematic of the house’s success (a green metallic denim suit within the same collection as a pristine tweed skirt set, sleeping-bag coats — or maybe just sleeping bags — and a wedding dress). This absurdity is meant to espouse a reflection of humanity; if last season did in fact exploit the notion of collaboration, this season is using clothes as an art form to comment on the vicissitudes of the people we encounter. Like a literal walk in the park, but on a runway.

The caveat is that who we are encountering is becoming more and more political. Cue one torn-apart jacket that featured an EU flag (elsewhere described as a “post-Brexit twist”) and another model dressed as a United Nations soldier.

The brand is becoming an ongoing art installation, which is something I really like about it. It’s refreshing in that the conversation that surrounds the clothes have almost nothing to do with the clothes (there are enough labels commanding conversations in the other direction). They shock, they frustrate, they invite manifold different emotions on an infinite spectrum — which is exactly the point given that the job of art is to make you feel.

And as for fashion?

Fashion is never not a sign of the times. This collection made me feel like I was watching an infant struggle out of the birth canal: it was noisy, at some points disturbing, progressive but absolutely, irrefutably stunning in its depiction of life as we are learning it in the early stages of 2017.

Runway photos via Vogue Runway. Feature photos via Getty Images.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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