In reality, today’s top luxury fashion brands didn’t get to where they are now just overnight. A lot of them spent years creating their signature pieces and developing the overall aesthetic of their brands. Some even went face to face with possible bankruptcy, and the world might never have seen the beauty and genius of such labels. As successful as a handful of luxury brands are right now, the fickleness of the fashion industry dictates both their present and future success, as well as the interest of the consumers. It might seem like some of them are overnight successes, especially now that with social media, the fashion press can instantly spread awareness like wildfire. But each and every brand took years to perfect their look and to simply get noticed. And such is the story of Vetements.
New Aggressive Player
Established in 2009, Vetements is one of the hottest streetwear brands today. But it was only until around 2014-2015 that it became the most talked-about label in the industry. It was founded by Demna Gvasalia, a Georgian fashion designer, who was born on March 25, 1986. Following his dreams of getting a career in fashion, he studied in the renowned Royal Academy of Arts, in Antwerp, Belgium, which itself has notable fashion designing alum such as Dries van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester.
After graduation, he worked under another prominent alum, Martin Margiela, who hired him as his label’s senior womenswear designer. Gvasalia has often talked about how Margiela influenced him, from his revolutionary streetwear style to his unorthodox silence, which was completely unique at a time when fashion designers were becoming celebrities themselves. Whilst working under Margiela, he would often meet up with friends working under similarly-prominent fashion houses, like Louis Vuitton, Balenciaga, and Céline. It was during this time, when these five designing friends would work together to create their own pieces, that Vetements was born.
Behind Vetements Success
Along with his brother Guram, Gvasalia led the establishment of Vetements, a design collective comprising of he and four other designer colleagues, with Guram heading the business side of the brand. Their main idea was to create looks that weren’t presented in mainstream fashion media at the time and were more based off of street culture, the internet, and everyday life. One of their signatures is that their clothes aren’t seasonal, and whatever they offer as part of their “Fall” collection, for example, can still be bought and worn during the spring season.
The brand introduced a democratization in fashion, focusing on normcore clothing and the everyday people who wear them, rather than heavily-stylized pieces worn by supermodels and celebrities. They would prominently feature seemingly mundane clothes like hooded-jackets, logo t-shirts, fisherman boots, and floral granny dresses, among others. A lot of their pieces were injected with a sense of humor as well, like the logo-ed pieces conveying everyday phrases with a few choice curse words.
They also prefer going against the structure of the industry, choosing to show their collections outside Paris Fashion Week and in various establishments one would rarely associate high fashion with. For Fall 2015 for example, the label presented their second collection in Le Depot, a sex club in the French capital. By 2016, they started showing their ready-to-wear collections during Paris Haute Couture week, a practice then followed by a barrage of other brands.
The label takes pride in highlighting real clothing for everyday people, foregoing the season’s hottest trend and focusing on pieces one would definitely wear, but tweaked or styled a bit more nuanced for that fashionable touch. They even preferred casting their catwalk models from Instagram, to really emphasize that their clothes are for the masses, not necessarily the models and celebrities who would usually be seen wearing high fashion brands.
So much was their success that in 2015, the brand was nominated for the prestigious LVMH prize, against other brands that have since become established themselves like Craig Green, Off-White, and Marques Almeida, who eventually won the award. It was through that nomination that the label really got noticed by the industry and soon, they were one of the most anticipated and talked-about labels every season. With the help of the internet, an entity they’ve used as inspiration, their brand awareness increased tenfold, suddenly becoming an internationally-acclaimed label. Such was the eventual demand for their items that they had to grow their business of 5 people to 13, still retaining the small business structure they established in the beginning.
In the years that followed up to today, the brand slowly became a mainstream fixture in the fashion industry, despite their rebellious and underground sense of style. Various celebrities started wearing the brand both in high profile events and simply on the streets. Rapper Kanye West even tried to get Gvasalia to work for his fashion brand, Yeezy. Although the designer did attend West’s infamous Madison Square garden fashion show in 2016, he hasn’t revealed any plans for joining the label. That same year, Gvasalia was appointed as the new creative director of famed fashion house Balenciaga after his predecessor, Alexander Wang, exited to focus on his own label. At that point, both Gvasalia and Vetements became utterly inescapable in the sphere of fashion conversation.
Regarded as such an open streetwear brand, Vetements has also collaborated with a number of fellow brands to further broaden their street-style aesthetic. Aside from the normal capsule collections customary with collaborations, they also got brands like Juicy Couture, Reebok, Levi’s, Commes Des Garcons, and many others to supply pieces for their fashion shows. More than just a collaboration, such a practice was a total marriage between Vetements and the aforementioned labels.