Fall 2018

Jan 19, 2018

By Sarah Mower

“We took it to the flea market because that’s where it always begins.” Hard to know where to start with the Vetements collection, which was shown in the corridors of the Paul Bert Serpette market, north of Paris. Let’s begin with truth telling. Demna Gvasalia called his collection “The Elephant in the Room”—the elephant in question being the subject of Martin Margiela, and how much Gvasalia has been influenced by the reappropriation methods of the man whose house he worked for, albeit after MM himself had left the company he founded.

We live in a fevered moment when the copying of designs is being instantly called out all over social media. Fact is, though—you can take this from an eyewitness—Martin Margiela also began by deconstructing and repurposing skanky old flea market clothes. This is a time when accusation throwing about what’s real and what’s fake is indulged in by as big a genius as the president of the United States. It’s the mucky soup this culture’s swimming in, the subject du jour, extending way beyond the bubble of fashion. So Gvasalia thought the time was right to come clean about his Margiela fanboy status, and try to make something purely spontaneous of it.

He went to the kindergarten next door to the Vetements studio in Zurich and set the children the project of making T-shirts illustrating their idea of “the elephant in the room.” “Martin once asked children to make drawings for an invitation,” he explained. “It was a note of homage, but also a mission statement for a way of switching off debilitating creative interference.” Detaching himself and the Vetements team by working in Switzerland has worked liberating wonders. “It’s taught me to stop thinking and start feeling,” he said. “We live in a world full of references. They are there to feed us—not to copy, but to create something new from them,” he said. “That’s the challenge.”

The show was cast on his own tribe of people, who he says, “really do dress like this.” They stormed around the red carpet of the covered market, with stall holders watching, wearing hugely complex, piled-up layers of vintage-looking garments. Their heads were swathed in printed silk bourgeois lady scarves tied tightly over baseball caps. Some of them sported cobbled-together bits of old sunglasses. Swishing by, they radiated a hard, self-possessed, intimidating glamour.

When Vetements began, it was a reflection of something underground, Berlin-and-Paris suburban clubby. It’s been responsible for the apotheosis of the hoodie as a fashion object, for the step-hemmed jeans craze, for oversize shapes, giant shoulders, and the ubiquitous comeback of floral peasant dresses. With this collection, you could see far more intensely worked-at fabrics, hybrids of garments, and details going on. The jeans were cut out like army camouflage net, the denim jackets scattered with floral embroidery, leg-hugging spike-heeled boots were painted with flowers. The tour T-shirts of before had been retooled as patchworks.

Yep, there were certainly the inevitable Vetements hoodies; the elephant in the room blocked their disappearance from the scene. But generally, what stayed in the mind was the eye-grabbing layering of the coats—ladylike print dresses sewn in back of trenchoats, the inside-out exposure of linings, the visible garment labels, not to mention the unresolved curiosity as to what came attached (those Burberry-style checked scarves—yes or no?).

All in all? With this collection, Gvasalia got out all his thoughts, for women and men, way ahead of the rest of the Fall 2018 shows, which start in February. He’s an agenda setter who almost expects to be copied when those collections roll around. There’s just one remaining elephant on the loose around this show. As much as most of the clothes might’ve looked like repurposed old ones, they weren’t. When the time comes, it will be specially manufactured new ones. Gvasalia remarked on how difficult it is to make clothes look worn. Wouldn’t it be better for the industry’s philosophical upcycler in chief to really start taking the lead in fashion recycling?