All eyes were on Vetements on Thursday night, they were back in Paris, this time showing off schedule during the men’s shows as opposed to previous spots during couture or mid-year presentations. It’s an exciting return - under Demna Gvasalia the brand has ignited a frenzy over what was once perceived as mundane - the simple hoodie for example - can you remember a time when we weren’t all wearing one?
This season, Gvasalia was looking inward - looking to himself, his childhood and his references. Entitled 'The Elephant in the Room', this was a homage to Martin Margiela (Gvasalia had worked at the brand for three years) and a face-on attack to the unpickers of his designs as 'Margiela-esque' or 'harking back to the Margiela years'. Gvasalia is no mimic. Here, Gvasalia had deconstructed items, turning them inside out, twisting the labels onto the exterior, taking umbrellas, scarves, drawings and turning them into skirts, blouses and t-shirts, explicitly utilising Margiela tropes with a flourish. How very Vetements indeed.
Set in the Paul Bert Sapette antique warehouse (a place I’m told Gvaslia frequents), onlookers were sat amongst the bric-a-brac as models sped down the runway in piles upon layers of Gvasalia’s homage to the great MM. Clothes looked worn, some have been treated so, some were adapted and updated vintage. It was nigh impossible to spotlight materials or cut as the models stomped down the runway (were they angry or was it just an attitude and swagger?) but just from initial glances, I could see references to cartoons, Marilyn Manson, market-stall prints, Yu-Gi-Oh and postcards. The latter appeared lacquered on shoes and boots with great success. Another look that I could pull from the pack was a green suit/tracksuit, the trousers of which had oversized button holes down the back of calves for heels to go through. Perhaps the most explicit reference to the house of Margiela was that of the Tabi boot. Here, these copycats came with coin-stacks as heels or the traditional lighter, they were scrunched slightly and looked inherited. I’m not convinced of these, the joke isn’t lost on me, but does the consumer want to buy a Vetements Tabi boot when Margiela’s are still available? And, judging by the Paris fashion pack, still very much desirable?
Looking around the showroom after the show, there was an impressive number of items on display. Those layers we saw on the runway peeled away to reveal Reebok X Vetements trainers that had taken two years to develop - wasn't entirely sold on these either -, silken and printed scarves, coats that compact into duffle bags. There was a flurry of prints, slogans, patchworks - all predominantly nineties, all attractive and witty. However, some of the quality was a little less enticing. A few items had been taken straight from a vintage shop, given the Vetements touch and the Vetements price-tag. I wonder how they mass produce these items? It’s a great thing to be creating renewable clothes from vintage but something's amiss when a vintage coat triples in price because of a Vetements sticker and not because of a quality upcycle. Inside-out jumpers and tracksuits will be easily mass-produced and I’m sure will fly off shelves but again, the quality didn’t feel all that desirable. Indeed, it all felt a little lacking in the finish and material.
That said, when the concept is strong and inviting, long-lasting design might not be the top of everyone's spending agenda. Alongside Margiela elephants, Gvasalia was riffing off market-places and stands from his hometown - all disposable, crafted, create-your-own. See those scarves (there were A LOT of scarves), those tattered camo print trousers and the kitchen towel print wallets. The consumer is given a styling advantage - just as with Gucci - one can run to a vintage store, or a market and create their own Demna 'look'. That's the beauty of this flea market theme and both the blessing and the curse of this collection. Gvasalia is back, the Vetements flame ignited once more but will the frenzy continue?