The hottest label in Paris earned It-brand status with a bratty tone and anti-fashion aesthetic. But beneath all that irreverence, Danielle Meder suggests Vetements is reinventing how the garment industry does business
"Everybody is talking about Vetements," sang the headlines last winter. The new Paris-based label captured the imagination of fashion insiders with ironically humble offerings – deconstructed Levi's jeans, T-shirts and hoodies with blatantly appropriated logos – and a bracing, unglamorous aesthetic. In July, Vetements showed its spring 2017 collection two months early. It was entirely made up of collaborations with 18 brands including Canada Goose, Manolo Blahnik and Juicy Couture. Received to great critical acclaim, the collection saw Vetements pass through fashion's precarious fad phase to become a bona fide bellwether for the industry.
So why is Vetements so important? In one word: postcapitalism. Journalist Paul Mason wrote a book called Postcapitalism: a Guide to our Future, identifying a variety of features that characterize this emerging economic phenomenon, all of which Vetements embodies. One is the devaluation of intellectual property via an abundance of information that cannot be controlled. In fashion, this manifests itself by one brand taking another brand's name in vain, such as when Vetements spun a bastardized version of a Champion hoodie for spring 2016 without the athletic-wear label's permission.
Another aspect of postcapitalism is collaborative production instead of competition. For next spring, Vetements worked with Champion, combining resources to the benefit of both parties.
Postcapitalism also prizes sustainability over perpetual growth. To this end, Vetements imposes maximums on wholesale orders instead of minimums, so clothing sells at full price and waste is reduced. And, perhaps most importantly, postcapitalism develops within the existing economic system. The current ready-to-wear schedule as introduced in the 1960s is no longer functioning rationally, resulting in a huge volume of useless product, exploited labour and wasted time. Much like modifying an old hoodie design to become a relevant product, Vetements is simply modifying existing industrial infrastructure so it makes sense.
Guram Gvasalia, the business mind behind Vetements, published a book in 2013 called Size Zero: A Guide to Spiritual Management. The title hints at the heightened awareness of trends, values and economics that have made the label a quick success. Irreverent and practical, postcapitalism aims to liberate consumers from tradition with truth. And that's why we're still talking about Vetements.