Spring 2016

Oct 1, 2015

By Sarah Mower

The entity that goes under the name Vetements has caused quite a quake through fashion—bottom-up, from nowhere. Just when—by looking at mainstream corporate luxury-goods norms—it seemed that cool was dead and buried and nothing “alternative” could ever again survive, along came a couple of brothers, Demna and Guram Gvasalia, and their collective of friends, to prove skeptics wrong. There’s no faking the concrete truth of that. The visible evidence of their breakout is in the number of Vetements’ oversized blazers and giant MA-1 jackets, recycled firefighter sweaters, “Antwerpen” slogan shirts, and, especially, the flower-printed tea dresses with sweatshirting inserts that are being worn around the shows. Nobody seems to have consulted each other on this: They just went to shops, women and men alike; tried on the Vetements stuff; loved the way it made them look and feel; and impulsively paid up.

That’s why those impulsive ones, plus a large contingent of the professionally curious, enthusiastically headed to Belleville today, to what turned out to be a large Chinese restaurant, to see the Vetements follow-up for Spring. The audience was not to be disappointed.

The buzz and energy in that cheap and cheerful establishment, the freakishly beautiful club of the young and the strong who modeled, and the wildly impressive clothes they were wearing had all the makings of an unforgettable fashion landmark. At top speed, Demna Gvasalia and his co-conspirators confirmed everything their following likes about their off-kilter, elegant, giant-jacketed tailoring and clunky romantic dresses, and then bettered it all. There were argyle knits under sober menswear suits, sexy sawn-off skirts with Vetements-labeled thigh boots under coats, brilliant flashes of neon yellow and toxic green, striped men’s shirts with superlong trailing cuffs, and corset T-shirts.

Then came the dresses, in a stunning number of new, colorful, and punchy-sophisticated ideas. There were loose versions of prairie-flower prints with matching trailing coats, a green Lurex yoked smock, a navy polka-dot dress anchored on a black satin slip, and one outstanding mauve velvet dress cut to cling and slither across the body.

And that was far from all. After most of the crowd had filtered out into the streets, Demna Gvasalia explained, “There’s something in the collection which means a lot to everyone who’s worked on it—like those rose-printed plastic tablecloths we made into aprons and dresses were an ode to my grandmother. We’ve worked really hard on developing more jeans, too, and leather.” The point is that the Vetements collective has a lot of pooled talent and experience to call upon. Idealistic as they are, they haven’t started as naive lambs to the slaughter of the industry. One core ally is the Russian stylist Lotta Volkova Adam, who walked last in the show. Other people have worked silently with them, moonlighting from jobs elsewhere. Demna Gvasalia himself learned the ropes at Maison Martin Margiela, before setting up Vetements and getting on with proving that there can be a different way of doing things. Apart from their stylistic insights into what people really want to wear, it feels like the beginning of something else, too—perhaps something like the power of niceness and friendship in an industry that could do with a lot more of that.