Demna Gvasalia is angry. One can rather easily ascertain that from the all-caps passage that was posted to the Vetements official Instagram account on Friday, attributed to him. The message comes in response to a widely read Highsnobiety article that cited an array of industry insiders, who said the brand is “dead” from a retail standpoint (thereby spawning no shortage of think pieces, including one from us), and it aims to set the record straight about the “wannabe journalism,” “fake news,” and “gossip and lies” of which Vetements has been the subject for the past 24 hours.
The Instagram post – which coincides with a longer, slightly less aggressive statement published by WWD – harkens back to the tenure of Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent. While in the top spot of one of the most esteemed fashion brands in the world, Mr. Slimane engaged in his fair share of rows, two of which come to mind immediately. There was his go at the New York Times’ key fashion critic (at the time) Cathy Horyn’s not-so-stunning review of his debut at Yves St. Laurent. In response, at nearly 7pm Paris time, Slimane posted a letter, entitled, “My Own Times,” on his personal (and verified) Twitter account.
Some of Slimane’s choice words for Horyn in that October 2012 letter: “Miss Horyn is a schoolyard bully and also a little bit of a standup comedian … I also often hear that her sense of style is seriously challenged, providing that she is meant to be an authority in the village. This is totally irrelevant, no one has ever asked for her to be an inspiration to others after all, and likely it would never happen anyway … Her biggest achievement so far is a book about Bill Blass, that I haven’t read.”
Fast forward four years and Slimane was at it again. This time, he engaged in a lengthy Twitter rant on the heels of his departure from the Paris-based brand. His goal? To “set the record straight” regarding his usage of the iconic “YSL” logo following what he claims were “inaccurate statements in recent articles regarding Hedi and the usage of the YSL historical logo.” He dedicated 22 tweets to making his case that he did, in fact, use the famed logo, despite reports otherwise.
But this is hardly unexplored territory. Delicate creatives (or cunning marketing minds, depending on which camp you occupy) have been provoked by the press on countless occasions over the years.
Ever the sensitive artist, Kanye West, for instance, is no stranger whatsoever to a knock-down, drag-out Twitter lash-out. As Elle’s Sally Holmes so accurately stated in February 2015 on the heels of the Fall/Winter shows in New York, “For a second, it seemed like Kanye West was going to escape New York Fashion Week without causing a hoopla.”
But alas, “In the wee hours of the morning, Kanye did what Kanye does best: Treat us all to a rant of epic proportions.” This consisted of tweets, such as, “I have millions of ideas and I represent a new generation just trying to express themselves in a broken world” and “All we have are our dreams and you can step on our dreams and ideas all you want but we won’t stop fighting.” This rant was followed by additional assertions a year later, such as, “All these journalists can give their opinions, well these are mine …. yes I believe in my ripped homeless sweaters!!!”
And all of this follows, of course, from the extremely notorious radio interview that West did in September 2013, in which he lamented, “We brought the leather jogging pants six years ago to Fendi, and they said, ‘No.’ How many motherfuckers you done seen with a jogging pant?”
You may recall that in an October 2015 interview with the New Yorker, Balmain’s creative director Olivier Rousteing took a quieter but still very pointed aim at a less-then-glowing review from the Times’ Vanessa Friedman. Clearly wounded, Rousteing slammed critics entirely, saying: “It is too bad for critics if they cannot understand this, but the truth is now that their critiques do not matter.”
Even the late Oscar de la Renta lashed out in response to a bad review. Cathy Horyn used the term “hot dog” in her review of the designer’s collection in 2012. She says she meant it in the “‘40s movie exclamation” way, and not an actual ballpark refreshment type of way, but de la Renta was already off to the races. The brand took out a full-page ad in WWD to release “An Open Letter to Cathy Horyn from Oscar De La Renta,” in which he called Horyn a “stale three day-old hamburger.”
Reflecting on the mess in a Harper’s Bazaar essay a couple of years later, Horyn wrote: “This was silly business—it is a silly business—but if there’s one thing I know from covering Oscar for three decades, it’s that he’s intensely competitive. A good fight, even a phony good fight, magnifies power. It also creates a ton of publicity, as Oscar reminded me with a grin when I saw him a few weeks later.”
Such a passage suggests, of course, that the whole thing could be chalked up to fashion doing what fashion does best: Creating hype in order to sell more handbags. As for whether that is what Gvasalia is up to right now, it seemly extremely likely, especially considering that hype is the currency in which Vetements deals best.