Words by Síomha Connolly
July 21st, 2016
Vetements, the brand name on everyone’s lips, was launched by two brothers Demna and Guram Gvasalia in 2014. Set up by Demna who leads the design team and Guram who is the business side of the operation along with a group of their friends, the brand operates as an anonymous design collective. The idea for Vetements was based on “urban cultures, the internet, everyday life on the streets and a modern wardrobe without seasonal themes.” Since its launch the brand has exploded, especially on the street style scene- last season’s DHL T-shirt was the crème de la crème among the fashion crowd. A search of the Vetements hashtag on Instagram garners 143,973 tags and the hashtag DHL features a number of images of stylish men and women wearing the ironic tee.
In January, Vetements announced that they would be merging both women’s and menswear in one singular show which would be displayed during Paris Couture Week, apparently in order to catch the buyers’ attention while they are in Paris for the pre-collections. Vetements were granted a guest membership to show at Paris Couture Week in July. By showing at Couture Week, given that they are an urban ready-to-wear brand, they’ve disrupted the whole fashion week schedule, but was this bound to happen sooner or later anyway? Gucci have announced mixed women’s and menswear shows as of February 2017, and Burberry have announced they will do seasonless collections and will be operating a “see-now buy-now” model starting this September. It seems the age old rules and traditions of Fashion Week are slowly being turned on their head.
The lag time that comes with the traditional fashion week scheduling means that consumers must wait months before they can actually purchase the items that have been shown. This not only leads to customers’ interest waning over time, but also often results in high street imitation versions being circulated before the label’s collection has even hit the stores. When launching their brand, the team at Vetements knew that something had to be done to alter the schedules of both showing and production. Closing the gap between preview and purchase was essential, and so their recent show earlier this month is the start of their new scheduling. Collections will be shown in both January and July, with products available for sale a month later, eliminating a large amount of the waiting time for both consumers and retailers. Vetements is a brand that certainly isn’t afraid of going against the grain. Their attempt to break the mould of traditional fashion week schedules is a daring but practical stance, and one that may have a positive effect on the industry as a whole.
Posing an unconventional attitude to fashion, Vetements has been synonymous with collaborations since its inception. Their Champion tracksuit and Thrasher hoodie from last season are some of the most notable collaborations to date. The show that was displayed earlier this month at Galleries Lafayettes in Paris- during regular opening hours no less- consisted entirely of collaborations; there was 18 in total. The brand aimed to collaborate with experts in every field of clothing that they wished to create. Speaking to Vogue, Demna said, “For us, it was that we wanted to show in the period of haute couture – so we chose the best manufacturer for certain products, whether it was a shirt or a shoe or a leather jacket.”
Their idea of haute couture was in the skills used to make the products, rather than the style of the products themselves. For their trench coat they looked to Macintosh, for tailoring they went to Brioni, they collaborated with Manolo Blahnik for women’s shoes and with Church’s for men’s. One genius aspect of this collaboration collection was that the majority of production was done in the collaborating brands’ own factories. Vetements came up with the design but all production was done by the collaborating brand for each product, allowing this large collection a faster turnaround than normal. This, perhaps, was the only feasible way to ensure that the collection was ready in time for the earlier show date of July.
Judging by Vetements overwhelming immediate success, perhaps this mix up is exactly what the fashion industry needs. According to Guram, “It feels like the industry, and I’m talking about the business side, has been in hibernation for the last 20 years.” Vetements is all about embracing modernity, reacting to the now. And this is the type of brand that effectively speaks to contemporary consumers.
So is the traditional structure of Fashion Week as we know it out of date? Judging by the brands that have opted for change already, it would appear so. Whether it’s a see-now buy-now model, reduced annual collections, or combining menswear and womenswear, change needs to happen from both the brand and consumer perspective. Only time will tell what’s going to happen, but with brands such as Vetements, Gucci, and Burberry among others already on board for change, it’s likely that we’ll see Fashion Week get a complete overhaul in the very near future.
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