The Emperor's New Vetements
If you pay attention to fashion at all, any coverage of Demna Gvasalia's barnstormer Vetements (which means simply "clothing" in French) will come as very late news. For many people--old guard and young hypebeasts, alike--it was love at first sight. Kanye wore the hoodies. Lots of other people did, too. On the runway, the presentation has the rock and roll rush that so much fashion aspires to but almost never delivers. It's how I felt when I first heard Pulp. Even the beautifully rendered new Raf Simons show for Calvin Klein feels staid and pretty by comparison. Vetements feels new. It feels monolithic.
The wearability of Vetements's offering is a bit of a sly joke. The fit is forgiving, generally something well past oversized (can we retire the term antifit, please?). But the spirit of the clothing is beserk. T-shirts with football-ready shoulder pads. Boots and heels so high they may or may not be pants (see above).
The gonzo creations Gvasalia and his team send down the runway are at once alien and familiar. Vetements pieces fundamentally alter and sometimes ignore the signs and signifiers of our clothing. It's as if some naive designer cooked up this baffling mix of eminently practical clothing from disconnected magazine clippings. Clearly, Vetements's values and vision are not quite our own.
How miraculous then, that this clothing feels so solid, written so large and so clearly. Best of all, enjoying them doesn't require that you believe in some kind of invisible value. There is no Lagerfeldian Wizard of Oz figure. The virtues and shortcomings of Vetements are right there on the surface; nothing is hidden. Either you feel it or you don't.
So, not feeling it is certainly part of the experience. Just as Vetements has its acolytes, so too does it need its nonbelievers. Gvasalia's art of alienation must necessarily include both the alienated and the converted. They are all, as everyone's favorite b-boy skeletons would say, part of it.