Isn’t it amazing when the obvious becomes revolutionary? Like when Marc Jacobs sent models down a silent, bare-bones Fall/Winter 2017 runway and our minds were blown, or every time fashion discovers the white tee? Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia — a man who drops jaws with mere sweatshirts and too-long sleeves — has made an art form out of this. On Friday, he announced that he and his brother Guram were pulling out of fashion week, a decision that seems completely wild, if not totally preposterous, for a young brand on a meteoric rise, one that sent me into a dramatic chicken-little frenzy of terror (“That’s it! The industry as we know it is officially over!). Yet it makes so much sense.
Gvasalia is brilliant at paying attention. His gift as a designer is his ability to stitch together “ordinary” garments with the same threads that string nuanced social observations. If he were a writer, he’d be a David Rakoff-type, someone who doesn’t just see but notices, someone who lasers in on sidewalk fissures while the rest of us watch our steps. Vetements is not the first brand to pull out of the brouhaha that has become the four season per year fashion calendar. Smaller designers have been quietly dropping off New York fashion’s show itinerary for a few years, first to whispered pities (because it “must mean they’re not doing well”), more recently to empathetic nods of understanding. Derek Lam didn’t show this past season; he did a private presentation to a selection of editors, of which I heard attendees call “civilized” and “chic.” Meanwhile, lauded industry veterans like Raf Simons and Alber Elbaz have left major roles with reporters citing creative burnout as cause for departure.
Everyone gets it; this industry has always been nuts, and fast-fashion’s insatiable hunger has only made the design houses run harder. But it’s a wake-up call when the school’s star athlete forfeits the race.
Gvasalia told Vogue.com, “I got bored [of the classical system]. I think it needs to enter a new chapter. Fashion shows are not the best tool…It’s become repetitive and exhausting. We will do something when there’s the time and the need for it.” The brand will still continue to produce a collection four times a season, just “no more oversize hoodies!” and no more shows.
“Rather than just being another stunt in Vetements’s four-year sprint of novelty interventions,” wrote Sarah Mower, “the brothers are putting on the brakes to prioritize intelligent business development and mental health.”
It’s making news because it is news. It is a big deal for a house as watched as this one to retreat. It’s also one more example of Demna Gvasalia’s ability to tap into what we’re all experiencing but can’t seem to fix. He makes it look so easy. Feeling crazed? Pull the emergency lever and get off the high-speed Ferris wheel. Unhappy with the way things are going? Stop going that way. It takes influence to influence. It’s not like he’s the only smart one around, but his clout paired with intuition makes him the design world’s equivalent of someone who gets the lid off a jar of pickles in one swoop after you’ve practically lost a hand loosening it.
A few nights ago, I sat next to a former boss at an event and complained about the workload that awaited my return home. “Just don’t do it tonight,” she said, offering up a solution I had literally not considered. It was risky, but so obvious. By 12 a.m., it felt revolutionary. I took her advice, went to bed and woke up early to finish my work. Turns out the world kept spinning. Vetements effect.