Vetements exploded onto the fashion scene in 2014 with its subversive product -orientated ideology, elevating streetwear to the upper echelons of high fashion.
Head designer and spokesperson Demna Gvasalia was catapulted from anonymity in the backrooms of Louis Vuitton to the front line of avant-garde fashion. The year after Vetements launched, Gvasalia was announced as the new artistic director of Balenciaga. Last year, Vetements opened SSI7 Paris Haute Couture Week with a collection in collaboration with 18 global brands.
Conceptually, Vetements is a label that focuses on the product. "Vetements" (or "clothes" in English) are exactly what they see fashion as: things you actually wear, as opposed to concept pieces. Gvasalia explains, "There are no illusions of, 'Oh, we want to create a dream about fashion. We just want to create clothes that people want to have." And people certainly do; they're selling out on Net-A-Porter and Nordstrom; Kanye West, Rihanna and Selena Gomez can be seen sporting the brand; eBay is awash with fakes.
Their aesthetic is minimal but not bland, and edgy without gimmick. The clothing is sober but not basic, and often androgynous. In one show, male designer Gosha Rubinsky modelled on the womenswear schedule; the clothes are interchangeable and play into postmodern ideas about gender fluidity. They can seem nondescript at first sight, but the cuts are beautiful, the tailoring is intricate and hard to replicate.
Inspiration comes from the clothes people already wear - wardrobe staples like hoodies, biker jackets and jeans - but reworked in a way that makes you look at them afresh. The jeans, for example, are collaged from two separate pairs that have been offset at the hem, and the back pockets look like they are sliding down.
To many admirers, Vetements challenges the industry's problems. While the big luxury houses try to reinvent themselves each season and try to catch all the trends at the right time, Vetements is simply approaching things from a designer's perspective: making clothes instead of grand theatrical concepts. Gvasalia and his team have fun playing with style, at an intuitive level. People have connected with that.
For instance, Vetements' most famous piece, the DHL t-shirt, had purely practical inspiration. Gvasalia and his team created their own take on the one worn by DHL employees because DHL was a constant in the life of the young brand, essential for sending samples and prototypes internationally between factories, studio and showroom. Whilst you can also go to DHL's website and buy an almost identical t-shirt for $6.50 (if you order 100), Vetements take on the item is priced at $266. However only Vetements is celebrated for its calculated assault on - and disruption of - the status quo in high fashion.