Is Vetements’ latest move going to kill fashion week?

Demna & co are quitting the runway – will others follow?

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Vetements SS15
Backstage at Vetements SS15, the brand’s first runway showPhotography Lea Colombo

The Lord has spoken. At the tail-end of last week, Demna Gvasalia, freshly revitalised from having ditched his Parisian partying ways to settle down in the haven of Switzerland, announced that Vetements is done with fashion week, and with regular fashion shows. Talking to Vogue’s Sarah Mower, he put it this way: “I got bored. I think it needs to enter a new chapter. Fashion shows are not the best tool. We did the show in the sex club, the restaurant, the church. We brought forward the season, we showed men’s and women’s together. It’s become repetitive and exhausting.” Instead of the show that was tentatively planned for early July, the brand he runs with brother Guram will host an exhibition in Paris, with details still TBC.

You heard: fashion shows are not the way forward anymore. And it’s not that Vetements didn’t try – it debuted at PFW in 2014, and in May 2016 announced that it would switch to show on the couture schedule. And as we all know by now, where Vetements goes, others tend to follow – you need only look at the amount of boxy shoulder pads or long, clashing floral dresses on the runway at the moment to realise that. New York labels Rodarte and Proenza Schouler also announced that they’d be showing during couture, starting July, and it seemed as if others might join them. Could this new, runway-free approach signal another sea change? Is the idea that fashion week is a fundamental, necessary part of the industry beginning to be questioned?

“So could this new approach signal another sea of change? Is the idea that fashion week is a fundamental, necessary part of the industry beginning to be questioned?”

To revisit Demna’s Vogue comment, repetitive and exhausting are two words that will probably be familiar to anyone that has had to sit through upwards of 200 shows in a few weeks. Of course, to see these events firsthand is often a great privilege – and they do have the potential to be earth-moving, dramatic, beautiful, theatrical experiences. Sometimes moments that are talked about for years to come. They can also be boring, a token effort that companies put on at great expense, hoping their entirely commercial collections will generate press. In the case of Vetements, it seems the constant need to create has been detrimental to the brand in the long term. “It’s like we’ve got this big baby, and we’ve got to take care of it,” Gvasalia told Mower. “In five years, it has gone so fast; it started to become something else. I want to bring it back to where we started. No more oversize hoodies!”

London’s menswear shows start this weekend, with a schedule that’s looking a little slimmer than recent years – brands like Coach and Burberry have decided to make runways co-ed, skipping the men’s shows, and others have fallen off the radar entirely. Meanwhile, Gosha Rubchinskiy is off in Russia doing his own thing – as he did in January with his Kaliningrad show, and J.W.Anderson is in Florence for Pitti Pitti. If you have the budget to bring (or fly) journalists out to your offseason, off-schedule event (cc: the Great Cruise World Tour), then sure, fashion week probably isn’t necessary. In fact, you might even get more press because there won’t be so much happening. But what about smaller labels, with smaller budgets? For them, the schedule and structure of fashion week offers a kind of exposure that they simply couldn’t get at another time than when the world’s international press has gathered in a city with the intention to see as much fashion as humanly possible. The takeaway? While it has come to be regarded as the ultimate trendsetter, what’s good for Vetements won’t be good for everyone. 

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