What Political Statement is Vetements Making?
01.27.17

Couture week in Paris just ended. It’s a prelude to ready-to-wear collection season, which will commence in New York on February 10th. Vetements initiated a new habit last July when they showed SS 17 on the couture calendar among the artisanal wears of other labels. That collection was full of collaborations with off-the-radar heritage brands, like Champion and Canada Goose, as well as more curious ones like Juicy Couture (you can now buy a pair of velour sweatpants for over $1,000, in case you were interested.)

FW 17 was displayed this week among couture once again, but instead of focusing on the almost vulgar, if not specifically thoughtful and therefore exploitative collaborations that defined last season, it more acutely followed the initiatives set forth just a couple weeks ago at Balenciaga, also designed by Vetements’ Demna Gvasalia, during Men’s Fashion Week.

That show — with its Vermont dad corduroys and the kind of wide, chunky rubber sneakers you might expect to see strapped on to the feet of an IT support hero, exhibited a fierce political undertone with its homage to Bernie Sanders.

balenciaga bernie sanders demna gvasalia man repeller

This week, a vast majority of the gender-nonpartisan ready-to-wear collection from Vetements weaved a new layer into the story of the absurd and the ironic that is becoming emblematic of the house’s success (a green metallic denim suit within the same collection as a pristine tweed skirt set, sleeping-bag coats — or maybe just sleeping bags — and a wedding dress). This absurdity is meant to espouse a reflection of humanity; if last season did in fact exploit the notion of collaboration, this season is using clothes as an art form to comment on the vicissitudes of the people we encounter. Like a literal walk in the park, but on a runway.

The caveat is that who we are encountering is becoming more and more political. Cue one torn-apart jacket that featured an EU flag (elsewhere described as a “post-Brexit twist”) and another model dressed as a United Nations soldier.

The brand is becoming an ongoing art installation, which is something I really like about it. It’s refreshing in that the conversation that surrounds the clothes have almost nothing to do with the clothes (there are enough labels commanding conversations in the other direction). They shock, they frustrate, they invite manifold different emotions on an infinite spectrum — which is exactly the point given that the job of art is to make you feel.

And as for fashion?

Fashion is never not a sign of the times. This collection made me feel like I was watching an infant struggle out of the birth canal: it was noisy, at some points disturbing, progressive but absolutely, irrefutably stunning in its depiction of life as we are learning it in the early stages of 2017.

Runway photos via Vogue Runway. Feature photos via Getty Images.

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  • Peter

    vetements worker: where r the clothes the show is starting
    demna: o shit was that today
    *corrals people from off the sidewalk*

    • Leandra Medine

      Ha!

  • tmm16

    I loved this collection. It felt so fitting with the current state of the world, politics, the fashion industry, society, everything and everyone. I hope the first look is me in 50 years.

  • Greer Clarke

    As little as I understand the rest of it, I think by far the best thing about the Vetements show was the models

  • Tim Brooks

    Vetements pushing this “diversity” is refreshing, especially after very lacking previous castings but the sleeping bag look was just an insensitive way of tackling the huge issue of homeless members of society! If fashion is always a reflection of the times, I think Vetements need to be responsible for the decisions they make! NAT COOL DEMNA!

    • Jus Grace

      My reaction was the same to the “sleeping bag look” 😬

  • Néo Bourgeois — Montecito

    Fly in the Italians to redesign and clean up this mental illness in fabric.

  • allie

    I just can’t stomach the concept of Vetements’ $1,000+ clothing as an homage to Bernie Sanders. Bernie ran a campaign rooted in the idea of ending systematic wealth inequality, not selling the concept of revolution to the uber wealthy.

    • diane

      Totally agree. And there is no way anyone should think that the use of real fur is conscionable, progressive or fashionable.

      • Vida Rose

        I read in another article that fur coat was a vintage, upcycled one-off

    • Senka

      Makes sense, but it will be bought by those who say they did, and did in fact support Bernie, and can afford those clothes. vetements may be sending a message with they work, but they also know their niche, and are presenting them what they want.

  • Vetements = PEOPLE ARE FASHION

    ??

  • Mariana

    Vetements created nothing new, if we look to this pictures we don’t see nothing really refreshing, they are just regular clothes in ordinary people. I can see this as a presentation of an artist, a political point of view to make us think and art also exists for that, but as a clothes designer I have many doubts. If vetements were “all-in” for a political statement or homage to Sanders, they would sell regular clothes for ordinary people for reasonable middle class prices.

    • Leandra Medine

      The brand is 100% an ongoing art installation. Which is something I really like about it; it’s refreshing in that the conversation that surrounds the clothes have almost nothing to do with the clothes. They shock, they frustrate, they invite tons of different emotions — which is the point! Arts job is to make you feel. Would love to hear what Jerry Saltz

      • Mariana

        Totally agree with you, “ongoing art installation” is the perfect definition for that. No doubt they make us feel stuff, bad or good. But I guess it would be more suited for a museum, worth of seeing by everyone, than for PFW and stores like farfetch or moda operandi, that are available for few. Is amazing how art goes almost to our visceral level and makes us question its meaning/worth/relevance and gets a range of different interpretations for the same subject.

      • kjrobot

        Is art supposed to make you feel? Or is it supposed to make you think? Or is it supposed to subvert the status quo? Is he a hack with an instagram-level grasp or art, fashion and ideas (a good deal of his following certainly is) or is he the fashion Warhol – stealing from the everyman and calling it art? And if so, isn’t that kind of played out or has it just not been done in fashion yet? And should fashion really be taking it’s cues from modern art? After all is modern art really any better than classic (decorative) art? Or is it navel-gazing and elitist clothed in ‘cool’ and exactly how we got to a me-generation, and an underclass that votes republican against their own interest because they believe everything is a lie so why the hell not. At least the front man is speaking plainly.

        Woah. Wormhole.

        What I’m saying is. Regardless of what you think of him (hack or artist) I’m not sure his work is of any consequence. I love fashion, like you said it’s a demonstration and reflection of the times in real time, it has a bigger profile than art does across the board, so perhaps he thinks it a more populist medium for his message. But maybe there is no message. After all, just like art, fashion is not only exclusive but exclusionary. So how effective can a homage to a man (Bernie) who is all about evening the playing field and the redistribution of (some) wealth, and moving to a more dialectic approach to capitalism so that the government can simply do a better job of looking after it’s citizens…how effective can that homage or message be when it comes from an elitist medium, and then packaged up into a (capitalist for-profit) product bought by the rich in the sheep-like devotion to what’s cool. It rings false. Just like all the Bernie bros in the fashion world with their facebook rants who have rich parents and a membership to moma and are very sure that they are right and moral and just because of the left-leaning views and can’t stop patting themselves on the back for it. There’s no denying Demna doing this show and then turning around and selling this shit in department stores for thousands of dollars also rings false. Is that the point maybe – that we are supposed to say “the emperor has no clothes” when it comes to vetements and this many seasons in, still no one really has. You wrote about how you don’t get it once, but that’s as close as we’ve come.

        I’m starting to think that modern art and fashion with a message is precisely as pointless as old men tell you it is. When artists are making ‘political statements’ rather than actually being involved in politics in a real way, what the hell is the point.

        Sorry. This is the spiral I have daily. I think a lot of creative professionals are having the same spiral right now. I am a cliche. I’ll stop now. Promise.

  • kay

    “this season is using clothes as an art form to comment on the vicissitudes of the people we encounter. Like a literal walk in the park, but on a runway. The caveat is that who we are encountering is becoming more and more political. ”
    makes so much sense!!! love this

  • Fran

    Totally interesting collection. I like more of the outfits shown on men than the ones shown on women. It looks like women have fewer, more conventional options in this particular fantasy. Which is maybe not so far from reality.

  • Vida Rose

    I really like how they’re shaking it up. For me, this is the most interesting collection they’ve done so far: People On The Bus. The clothes aren’t interesting but how they’re using them is.

  • Bianca

    This is the Art “Dada” movement but in fashion

  • Celia

    thought this was going to be an refreshing read, dissapointed to say the least.

  • Senka

    In a way, to me it has a feeling of Emperors new clothes, in a sense that there is nothing new about it. But fashion flock runs to see it and admire it. People dressed as a soldier, goth, punk, someones dad or grandma or a bank clerk, walking down the runway, and it’s presented as fashion. I have a feeling, and that might be Demnas theme, that the joke’s on us. Because there’s nothing new to bring to fashion, so he’s fine recycliing things. or to maybe pay attention to everyday people around us, or society we’re surrounded with. I am not sure about “fashionness” of it all, but as Leandra said, it does look and feel more like art.