PARIS, France — There is something paradoxical about a label whose generic name, intended to steer attention towards the garments it produces (vetements is French for clothes), instead, prompts instant curiosity about the people behind it. Indeed, in a city dominated by large luxury houses helmed by prominent designers, each with their personal vision, womenswear ready-to-wear label Vetements quietly stands out for its anonymous and customer-centric approach.
“We decided to think, firstly, of all of the women we wanted to dress, what their preferences are, what length for a skirt, what kind of tailoring shapes, what colours, what essential garments. We thought of our friends, of real people we know and what they would want to wear,” say the seven designers behind the label, who insist on anonymity and communicate as a collective.
The seven were trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, Die Angewandte in Vienna and Studio Berçot in Paris. And, at different points in time, they all cut their teeth at Maison Martin Margiela (itself known for the cult of invisibility surrounding its founder).
After several years spent working at various fashion houses, “we all met and realised how frustrated we were. We started to lose a sense of fun in fashion. And to avoid getting bitter about it, we decided to work together on a project,” they say. “We are all different and we like different things, but what we have in common is the aesthetic and through talking and discussing and arguing we try to create a product that makes sense to all of us.”
Their aesthetic is certainly reminiscent of Margiela. It’s minimal without being flat, edgy without the gimmick. The garments are sober, but not basic, and sometimes androgynous; they can seem nondescript at first sight, but the cuts are beautiful and hard to replicate.
“When we saw it in Paris, we found their concept of revisiting timeless wardrobe piece to be unique and we loved the collection, the details of the finishing and the quality of fabrics,” says Carol Song, head buyer at Opening Ceremony (the label is carried at the retailer’s Japanese store). Thus far, Vetements has racked up 27 stockists for Autumn/Winter 2014, its debut season.
“The collection is very versatile and modern; something that a lot of people could integrate into their wardrobe with ease, wearing the pieces for many seasons to come,” says Fred Fan, womenswear buyer for independent London boutique Layers. “Conceptually, Vetements is a label that focuses a great deal on the product, with deceptively simple pieces that are constructed and shaped in a manner that gives seemingly unassuming garments more depth,” he continues. “It's great to see a brand concentrate on actual clothing above all else.”
For this month’s Spotlight, Vetements has designed a custom BoF logo that reflects their attitude towards garment making. “The idea was to craft the logo just as a dressmaker crafts clothes. Stitching and threads are the most basic and existential elements of creating fashion and, because, for us, fashion is about clothes, first of all, the logo had to be stitched.”
Marjan Eggers, owner of seminal Antwerp boutique Louis (who was one of the early buyers of collections produced by the famous “Antwerp Six”) thinks Vetements will appeal to her loyal customer base of “women who look for items of remarkable quality that are wearable and distinctive.”
“We definitely want to cater [to] a niche,” say the Vetements designers. “We don't believe in making masses of people like our clothes or want to buy them, but we also believe our niche is big enough.”
“The most important ingredient for us is the reality, what our woman wears to feel good and comfortable. We feel it’s inevitable and crucial to create contemporary clothing. Whether it’s a hoodie as a maxi dress or a cocktail dress in sportswear fleece, we are having a dialogue with today.”