Spring 2018

Jun 24, 2017

By Sarah Mower

Is Demna Gvasalia having more fun in Zurich than he had living the high life in the nightclubs of Paris and Berlin? It certainly looks like it. Instead of having a runway show for Vetements’s Spring collection, he and his design team went out and about in his newly adopted hometown, and stopped and asked people if they’d like to be photographed in their new collection. They recruited everyone from sulky teenagers to whole families, a movie producer, an insurance executive, an heiress, an accountant, a motorbike enthusiast, and some pensioners. All seemed happy to do it—the word of mouth about the Vetements neighbors has been spreading, apparently—and, as Gvasalia says, there’s not so much entertainment in this extremely comfortable Swiss tax haven of a city.

The photographs were taken by Gvasalia himself. “It’s not that I have any ambition to be a photographer, but I often find when I give direction to someone, they don’t catch the moment my eye sees,” he said. Also, Gvasalia is warm, personable, and down-to-earth, and obviously capable of patiently persuading and encouraging what the fashion industry is pleased to call “real” people. He’s keen to point out that he was scrupulously respectful of his subjects. “What you see is what each person chose to wear themselves. Everyone is choosy about what they want to wear; it was quite a big project with a huge range of clothes. And I showed everyone their photographs to be sure they liked them.”

Still, the project is clearly aimed at poking fun at the conventions and pretensions of fashion. Gvasalia showed people a book of images of fashion poses “and then we asked them to do their version of them.” People were captured in 57 locations about town—outside a grocery store, a bierkeller, a bank, on a bridge, in a park, in front of shops. Some chose to do the full ’50s Irving Penn curved-back pose, elbows out, hands into waist. A retired gent Gvasalia met at a café wanted, he said, “to do the grunge pose, the one with hands in front and a blank face. It’s funny how many older people related more to the grunge!” One or two of the characters agreed to have their photos taken with bars and a strip joint in the background. “There’s only one apocalyptic street in Zurich,” Gvasalia laughed.

The photographs were printed at life size and shown in a parking lot in Paris near the Gare Saint-Lazare, for a press party. By tomorrow the venue will be the Vetements sales showroom, where buyers will be the first to see the clothes in person. What they’ll find will be deliberately familiar. Part of Gvasalia’s point is to put on the brakes; to stop hurtling forward at a speed where he never has time to develop products which people have liked. “I wanted to go back and perfect things we did in former seasons. It’s kind of a best of, I suppose. And I felt quite liberated by that.”

The shapes are the same; the colorways and prints tweaked, the accessories improved. Will Vetements still be regarded as avant-garde if it stays in the same place, though? Interesting question. Being ahead of the market often means the designer, though highly regarded, doesn’t get to profit much from what he or she does. This is a carefully considered pause to consolidate and capitalize on cult pieces. How many women wished they’d gotten their hands on the original flower-printed Vetements tea dress which started a wave of imitators, but were too late? Well, now’s the second chance. The same shape is reissued for Spring in polka dots—the trick being that emojis are scattered among the dots. People will be fighting to get their hands on it.