Is Vetements Becoming a Department Store Unto Itself?

Discomfort may be a good thing, but boredom is not. Luckily, Vetements requires your brain cells’ full and undivided attention. Is an undivided cell an oxymoron? Ask me after I’ve had a second cup of coffee

The dresses of Vetements were the only pieces of the Spring 2017 collection that were not collaborative garments. Everything else — the sweatsuits, the shoes, the suiting, the denim — was created in partnership with 17 different brands, all experts in their own right, to develop what the Gvasalia brothers are calling “18 different collections.”

And how fortuitous that Vetements should have decided to show these clothes in Paris, at the start of couture week, inside the famous department store Galeries Lafayette. Are these garments — waist-high boots made with Manolo Blahnik, combat boots with Dr. Martens, shirting with Brioni, sweaters with Comme des Garcons SHIRT, velour, skin tight catsuits with Juicy Couture — not a department store unto themselves?

You know what I think I’m realizing? Discomfort is a good thing. It is a strong emotion to evoke in other people. When I said I didn’t get Vetements, I really didn’t. When I say I still don’t, I mean that, too. But that reaction indicates that it is working. The discomfort is becoming intrigue and the clothes are becoming a testament not to a life you are asked to aspire toward, but rather, one you already live. The needle is moving, fashion is changing, the system is mutating to accommodate how the world of commerce is unfolding and Vetements is at the front of this change.

There is no doubt that social media has sent the world into a tizzy: every industry is, in some way, affected by the instantaneous access we have been given and thus now demand. Every genre of business is now, in some way, a media property. We’ve all not just been given voices, but carte blanche to craft our stories, which are veiled with a tinge of mandatory narration because if we don’t do it, someone else will.

And so, Vetements is doing it. Rather than adhere to a system at which fashion has been shouting, “broken!” for too many seasons, it’s attempting a fix — testing out a model that injects a level of humility and inclusiveness in its modus operandi.

There are two principles that have come to define the millennial generation. The first is an absolute rejection of inauthenticity (it is, after all, the era of the personal essay!). The second is a demand for backslashing. So you’re a model and a DJ and an editor and a fitness instructor? That’s awesome. In 2016, you — and your business! — don’t have to be just one thing. Vetements is feeding both of these tenets.

Instead of turning its back on seasoned brands and recreating what they’re already good at, the design collective is enlisting their help to make better, or differentiate, those products. And rather than mangle the commerce process further, these products are being sold as collaborations, positioning Vetements as more than the anterior design collective. It’s a creative agency, a talent scout, a sort of wearable magazine. Does it get more real or diverse than that?

Runway images via Vogue Runway; feature collage by Lily Ross.


Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

More from Archive