PARIS, France — The genius of the Vetements project lies in its pragmatism. The Gvasalia brothers are ambitious, but where they part ways with their equally ambitious peers is in their highly tuned sense of the practical. Today, for instance, the Vetements collective moved its show for Spring 2017 up four months, from October to July. That, the brothers sensibly reasoned, is when buyers are in Paris buying the pre-collections that are a retailer’s bread and butter, meaning the buyers have more to spend.
Moving the show was also partly the Gvasalias’ response to the confusion that surrounds fashion’s seasons at the moment. Backstage, Demna was saying that he’d like to buy a coat when the weather turned cold, not have to think ahead when winter coats came into the store in midsummer. Same thing for warmer weather wear. Who’s buying bikinis in a blizzard? Except it’s now early July and the chill-rain in Paris is further proof that the weather doesn’t really perform to expectations anymore, so what was on the Vetements catwalk today was more a smart song to seasonlessness.
Doubly smart because, conscious of the fact that they were four months short of their usual schedule, the Gvasalias decided to call in the big guns, brands who embodied their product, to collaborate. Split the workload, in other words. A stroke of genius.
Demna had the idea, brother Guram made it happen. Champion? Well, they’re good for sweatshirts. Carhartt? Workwear. Juicy Couture? Velour sweats. Reebok? Sportswear. Levi’s? Denims, obviously. And on and on, to the coup de grace, jewel-toned satin pumps by Manolo Blahnik, the Zeus of footwear. Collaborations aren’t news in fashion. Collaborations at this level of intensity are. “We thought it would save us time,” Demna said. “Our collaborators were amazing, but it proved very challenging.” In other words, the whole thing went right down to the wire.
That’s the urgency that Vetements has brought to fashion. Today, it carried over into the clothes: the haphazard buttoning, the jackets sliding off shoulders, the belts un-looped, the oversize (Canada Goose puffas a real star of this show) vs the shrunken, better-things-to-do quality that masked structure, unhinged precision, simultaneously celebrated and subverted fashion, and sexualised it too. Denims zipped right up the backside, a gay flag knit top (a Comme des Garcons Shirt collab) was paired with a policier jumpsuit in green leather, a fetish fantasy that was hell-bound for the post-show party at Le Depot, the biggest, cruisiest gay club in Paris.
By the way, the show itself took place in Galeries Lafayette, an art nouveau temple to the religion of retail. The catwalk snaked through the fashion floor, invitations designated by the in-store boutique your seat was closest to (mine was Pucci). Demna said he’d wanted a shopping mall but there aren’t any in Central Paris.
Besides, Galeries Lafayette is just about as iconic as the Eiffel Tower. If you’re going to show your ready-to-wear collection during the haute couture presentations in Paris, why not make an impressive swan-dive into the essence of the city? (Justin O’Shea will attempt the same feat on Monday.) And the pulsing heart of fashion Mammon to boot. Today, Vetements was a Trojan horse, insinuating its slyness into the department store swank with a closing burst of furious thrash metal.
But that’s simply more Gvasalia canniness for you. Vetements isn’t on sale in Galeries Lafayette yet. How long before it is? Place your bets now.