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Vetements AW16
Vetements AW16Photography Evan Schreiber

Vetements is the brand the world can’t stop talking about

Demna Gvasalia discusses the dark mood behind a collection that rebelled against authority with naughty school girl uniforms and nods to stifling femininity

It was mere coincidence that Demna Gvasalia chose to stage the latest Vetements show moments away from Cristobal Balenciaga’s atelier and first store, but even as we were inside the formal setting of the grandiose American Cathedral, the brand’s irreverence was still out in force. “It was a kind of a dark season,” said Gvasalia after the show. “We had a lot emotions going on in the team – not depressed but definitely a dark mood. And when we thought about places where we could show, after a restaurant and a club, a church was the perfect concept.” 

It was hard not to think that that dark place might also have had something to do with the terrorist attacks back in November in Paris, the city that is so intrinsically linked to the making and shaping of the brand. In an interview featured in Dazed’s Spring 2016 issue, Gvasalia talks about the freedom that he feels in amongst his cohorts in Paris and says, “It’s a generation that isn’t really restrained by class, which is how Paris should be. This is a generation that tries to create its own rules to live by.” How Paris should be is a problematic question that is still up for discussion, but Gvasalia and his cohorts are responding by defiantly tearing up the rules as they know it, and creating new ones. For instance, moving his combined menswear and womenswear to show in June and January and selling those collections a month later to align with the actual seasons.

“We had a lot emotions going on in the team – not depressed but definitely a dark mood. And when we thought about places where we could show, after a restaurant and a club, a church was the perfect concept” – Demna Gvasalia

Last night though, as we sat in pews in vertical formation and watched Dazed contributor and key Vetements collaborator Lotta Volkova lead her and Gvasalia’s collective down these sacred aisles, the clothes seemed to wink and nudge at you, in the acknowledgement of authority figures and rebelling against them. Naughty Catholic school girl uniforms, dishevelled oversized ties and thigh high socks were like a subversive take on St Trinian’s. The shoes teetered dangerously on lighters and car lights. Velvet suiting and chintzy florals evoked stifling interiors. Heavy metal and goth references abounded in the guns ‘n’ roses motifs as well as in the finale Sisters of Mercy soundtrack.  There was even a parka styled to look like a security guard’s uniform with reflective panels. A pair of thigh-high boots spelled out ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’, summing up the extreme tension that went into the making of the collection.  

Amidst the brooding nature of the collection though were slogans taken directly from Instagram and Facebook that were simultaneously uplifting and perhaps unintentionally funny. “You Fuck’n Asshole”, “Justin4Ever”, “Sexual Fantasies” and “UltraSkinny” were some of the phrases thrown out there. One in particular, which Gvasalia himself was sporting, read “May the Bridges I Burn Light the Way”, which he related to on a personal level, finding it to be a “positive message.” 

And just as Vetements has had an indelible impact on other designers, as seen in the proliferation of oversized silhouettes and baggy hoodies, Gvasalia decided to shrink things up to shake up their own silhouette game. Sleeves were shortened. Shoulders were sharp and controlled or sometimes hunched. Bottoms were gathered in the back to pinch the waist in and belts came high up on the waist. “We did everything oversized for a few seasons now and we didn’t really feel like this is the only message we want to do in terms of volume,” explained Gvasalia. “It was more about playing with proportions. That silhouette is the opposite of what we did for four seasons now, but it’s also us.”

It’s strange to think that in such a short amount of time, Gvasalia and his collaborators have established a look, whereby the name ‘Vetements’ could be used as an adjective.  With their latest collection, the parameters of that look have evolved but at the core of what they do, it’s the energy that they create, that emanates far beyond shorter sleeves or internet slogans. In this scaled-up venue, you felt that energy bristling from every pew-lined aisle.