Within a couple of years, the fashion label Vetements has attained something houses that have existed far longer strain hard to regain: credibility. Along with it, a surreal level of hype has almost drowned out the young brand’s idealistic rationale. As encoded in its unironically straightforward name, Vetements was founded in a Paris living room with a simple mission: to bring the focus back on clothes. Journalist Suleman Anaya sat down with Vetements founder Demna Gvasalia for 032c's Winter 2015 issue to talk about his brand, Balenciaga, and “the system.” Here are some of the most striking excerpts …
On Vetements as a business: First and foremost, Vetements is a business. That’s the reason we do it. We are not a conceptual or artistic project. We are 100 percent product-oriented and open about it … For me, it is all about clothes. And I think when you do a collection where half of it will never be for sale, it’s not a good sign. That’s an old way of thinking that I totally do not agree with, “Let’s put on a big spectacle, make people dream, and then hopefully people will come to the store and buy a basic blouse.” At Vetements, our approach to fashion is diametrically opposed to that … Despite our high price point, Vetements isn’t a luxury brand and will never be one. We don’t think in terms of sophistication or elegance at Vetements.
On social media: It’s important, but very hard to do right. To be honest, I think it’s pathetic as a brand to be worrying about how many likes you have and to be desperately courting followers. In my view, when Instagram becomes just a visual commercial catalogue – saying, “Buy me! Buy me! Buy me!” – it’s more detrimental to the brand than beneficial. It cheapens your identity. Or posting some “It girl” posing with your bag. That’s just vulgar and potentially dangerous. You need to utilize these new media in a way that’s visually innovative and smart.
On See Now-Buy Now: Essentially, all these corporate luxury brands are trying to be like Zara, which is absurd and impossible. What gets lost in all this is that, to make something that makes sense, you need time. You need the mental space to assess if someone out there actually needs the Nth dress you’re making, or if it’s being produced just because some brand manager thinks it needs to be in stores, when in fact it will end up on the sales rack, or burned. That pressure is one of the many things we were questioning when we started Vetements. Another thing is a production cycle where everything needs to be instantly available, because people want things now and can’t wait six months. Or this idea that whatever goes on Instagram is what people will want to buy.
On the Vetements customer: I don’t think we can appeal to people who are not interested in fashion. We are super product-oriented, but we are also very much in a fashion frame. There’s no question about that. But on the other hand, we are not doing it for fashion editors. We are doing it for an end customer, whether it happens to be a fashion editor or some girl in Austin who digs our aesthetic. Sometimes it’s a celebrity, and that’s okay too. Several celebrities have worn our stuff. They had to go and buy it at the store like everyone else.
On Margiela: Aesthetically, Vetements is very linked to Martin Margiela, the house where you could say I got my MA in fashion. Nothing after my studies influenced me as much as Margiela – the aesthetic, the way of treating the clothes, liking the clothes, cutting them up, and doing something new with that. That essentially became my own approach … the people we want to dress often don’t even know who Margiela is. That’s a fact. I think the reaction you’re talking about is not so much about us. It’s about the fact that Margiela doesn’t really exist anymore. So I think we are the object of a subconscious nostalgia and frustration about the loss of something that existed 25 years ago and was truly great.
On outside investments: If someone tries to invest in Vetements, we will refuse any offer that we think might cannibalize our brand. We already had one very prominent offer and we said no. We will do everything we can so that Vetements remains free of any external interference, because that would be the beginning of the end.