See this image? It’s part of the series that Demna Gvasalia of Vetements created for his SS18 collection. See that scowling man? He could be your uncle Oswald or the man you buy tomatoes from at the Sunday market. And yet, he’s having fun, he’s making me laugh and he’s so fucking cool. Dammit Demna, you did it again.
To be a successful designer, you need to be a master of balance. You have to tease, provoke, captivate and astound your clients even as you ensure that they actually end up buying what you’re creating. So it’s a delicate tug-of-war, a see-saw between creating wonder and want, preferably in the same garment. Vetements has it down. Just look at this season’s collection shots—captured on the streets of Zurich, using street-cast people that Gvasalia and his team persuaded to don the new collection and pose (they picked their pose from a selection of common fashion poses). From smiling families to glowering grandpas, the shots are straightforward enough but it’s their candidness that makes them a hit. High fashion is not egalitarian—few people can afford the USD3,690 for a Vetements down jacket, and even USD175 for this tongue-in-cheek T-shirt available online on MR.PORTER is a steep price to pay for a cotton T-shirt, so yes there’s a certain amount of irony involved but as lookbook pictures? Freakin’ brilliant.
The label’s brilliance comes from taking everyday pieces and crafting them in context. And from poking fun at the Grand Dame primness of an industry that occasionally thinks too much of itself (yes, even as it sells back, very successfully, to that same industry). Authenticity is all the rage in fashion but few brands dare to tread beyond the borders of what sells to take a chance on the unadulterated authenticity of everyday people. Gvasalia basically shrugged his shoulders and then bundled street style and high fashion, and tossed it back to people to see what they do with it. The people in the shots picked out what they wanted to wear and styled themselves, according to this feature on the collection by Sarah Mower for Vogue. The results are mesmerizing and memorable. Each image is like a playing card that comes with its own backstory just waiting to be filled in by the viewer, and every person looks like they are wearing their own clothes. The man in the yellow striped shirt waiting on a bridge with a rose, is he waiting for his lover? Two kids on a park bench—on their way to school or the androgynous sibling duo of a punk rock band? The man in a brown parka holding a map—lost? Or an underground intellectual who’s just stopped to adjust his collar whilst on the way to join a communal living campsite for myopic hippies. The collection, like all the previous Vetements collections, is interesting and well-made but it’s the people wearing them that provides the dialogue and Gvasalia knows that—there’s power in projecting uniqueness and individuality but there’s even more power in letting the common people speak.