Until recently, cult clothing label Vetements was produced by an anonymous collective of Paris-based designers. The information surrounding the group was scarce: there were approximately seven of them, at least several of which were former employees of Maison Martin Margiela. By the time LVMH announced the eight finalists for its Young Fashion Designers Prize earlier this month, however, Vetements had a face and a founder: the Georgia-born and Antwerp-educated Demna Gvasalia, a former student of Walter van Beirendonck at the Antwerp Royal Academy of Fine Arts and alumnus of Margiela and Louis Vuitton.
“We didn’t really choose to be anonymous; many of us had other jobs” explains Gvasalia. “Vetements started as an enthusiastic project that we did on the weekends and at night after work. We couldn’t have our names really out—we were obliged to not be out there—but also our idea was really to push the product,” he continues. The immediate comparisons with Margiela, however, forced Vetements to rethink their strategy: “We decided that we were going to talk about things, but we all prefer to be in the background of the work we do.”
Only three seasons old, Vetements launched its first collection in March 2014. The label’s second collection showed at Paris Fashion Week, and Fall/Winter 2015 debuted at Parisian gay club Le Depot to a crowd that included Kanye West and Jared Leto. Forty-four stockists bought the label’s first collection, including UK-based boutique Matches Fashion.
“They sent me a look book for their first season and the whole collection was a stand-out, but the jeans caught my attention in particular,” says Matches buying director Natalie Kingham of the young design house. “I look for integrity, which Vetements has in abundance. This, combined with the incredible design pedigree of the design collective made me confident it was a brand that was going places… Integrity and credibility is key when you consider if a new designer has longevity.”
Vetements’ intention is to give new life to wardrobe classics, from the bomber jacket (the starting point of Fall/Winter 2015) to jeans and sweatpants. It began out of necessity—the label didn’t have the production numbers necessary to approach a denim factory, for example, so they began reworking vintage pieces. Now, it is part of Vetements’ utilitarian core. The Vetements team wants reinvigorate a piece so that it has “something more to it,” but it is equally important, Gvasalia says, “that it stays appealing to the person who wears it.” If customers weren’t interested in Vetements Gvasalia, “wouldn’t see the reason” in continuing. “We’re doing clothes and we’re doing products. It needs to be wanted and it needs to speak to someone.”
For their Fall/Winter 2015 collection, Vetements designed a travelling installation, which launched last week at the Matches Fashion showroom in London. Each item of clothing has its own audio recording, read by a friend, fittings model, or employee of the brand, which explains the history of the piece. “The idea was to have direct, intimate, personal contact between the person who looks at the garment and the garment,” says Gvasalia.