Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Why Vetements Demna Gvasalia is the Marcel Duchamp of Fashion

Image from The Native Fox
Confession: I initially titled this article, “Why Vetements is Everything Non-Fashion People Hate about Fashion.”  And it’s true: selling a DHL t-shirt for $330 that can be purchased from the delivery service for $14.99 screams insular fashion industry without relevance to the American consumer.

It’s the moment at the Oscars where Chris Rock asked moviegoers in Compton about whether or not they had seen any of the nominations.   While their responses ranged from “No, what the hell is that?” to “Where are you getting these movies from?” for critically acclaimed but limited-release films like Trumbo and Bridge of Spies,  all respondents saw Straight Outta Compton, the highest grossing music biopic of all time featuring the rise and fall of hip hop group N.W.A.  

But I’m not here to fault institutions for the validation of high culture over popular culture.  However, it’s important to acknowledge there is a limited frame of reference.  This is not universal.

So, let me backtrack.  What’s Vetements, and why do you care?

It’s “the hands-down coolest thing in Paris fashion right now,” according to Vogue.  Designer Demna Gvasalia and his collective have successfully captured the pulse of the the industry by reworking wardrobe staples such as biker jackets, jeans and sweats into cult items that feel new.  It’s rooted in gritty, street culture as opposed to the pretty, feminine fantasy that fashion has been known for.  Picture Champions sweatsuits with exaggerated sleeves and proportions, sock boots and patchwork denim.

And not everyone gets it.  Leandra Medine of Man Repeller recently said, “I don’t get the fanfare. You want to lose your shit over clothes that make you feel like 18th century royalty while you’re washing the dishes in real life, I totally get that. But to wear clothes that make you feel like you’re about to wash dishes? Where’s the grand illusion there?”

Gvasalia is pushing the boundaries of what constitutes fashion in the same way that Marcel Duchamp questioned what we consider art.  Duchamp repositioned a urinal upside down and called it Fountain. Voila, art!  Welcome to the world of the readymade.  You no longer needed to manufacture the artwork, only conceptualize it.  

Enter 2016: you no longer need to create the next silhouette but simply throw a new tag on it.

As Lizzie Widdicombe explains in The New Yorker, “Designers succeed for different reasons. Some, like Phoebe Philo, of Céline, or Rei Kawakubo, of Comme des Garçons, change the basic shape of clothes. Some, like Karl Lagerfeld, at Chanel, redefine our understanding of status—or of cool, as Hedi Slimane did when he brought the rock-and-roll-waif look to Christian Dior, in the early aughts.”

Vetements is currently succeeding in an industry that relies on convincing us to reinvent and reinvest in our wardrobe each season. Don't hate the player, hate the game.

Image from Net-a-Porter

Image from Vogue

Image from SF MOMA

Image from Net-a-Porter

Image from Instagram

Image from Vogue


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