Vetements SS20: The creative or crap of capitalism?
Updated: Mar 19, 2021
If you haven’t seen the Vetements SS20 show already, check it out. But should I really be telling you to check it out? Is it worth the publicity? Truth is, I am so torn about it. I’m not sure if this is pure genius or a questioning of our collective intelligence.
The show took place at a McDonalds in Champs-Élysées. McDonalds, lol. But at least it was a McDonalds on the fanciest avenue in Paris. It’s as if it’s almost a perfect metaphor for the brand itself. Selling you the fast-food of fashion, under the guise of luxury.
Don’t get me wrong, I do like a bit of Demna. He is creative in some sense. His continuous satirising of luxury fashion is pretty intriguing, and it is a big ‘fuck you’ to any other designer who says that high fashion has to have any sort of rules. The SS20 collection, combining cartoon characters to create cryptids reminiscent of knock-off, cheap market clothing, turns a laughable fashion faux-pas into a covetable luxury item. Plankton with Charmander’s short arms and flaming tail? Sign. Me. Up.
However, as with all things, there is a bit of controversy tied to this too. Going to less developed areas, you will see Winnie the Pooh’s head on Pikachu’s body, or Spongebob with Tweety’s face plastered on a t-shirt. So when Demna Gvasalia takes something like that and makes it £££ and luxury, he is essentially turning something that people may have been bullied for/laughed at for, and making it mainstream. Anybody remember that debate about poverty appropriation? Hmm?
Obviously, you can see it on the flipside. By making it cool, he is removing the stigma from it. Besides, Vetements is not the first fashion brand to take advantage of fake items in recent years. See Gucci, Diesel, Off-White, and even Nike. Bootlegs are fashion’s hottest trend.
But going back to the show, compared to previous Vetements collections, was SS20 just a little too lazy? Or is it satire taken to the next level? Well, to begin, the invites were Vetements condoms.
Of course, we know that Gvasalia is constantly satirising fashion, such as this school-style signed shirt of SS19.
He satirises the fibre of life itself, blatantly displaying his nihilistic attitude towards the whole being nice thing with this hoodie (also from the SS19 collection) which says “idi nahui” - roughly translating to “go fuck yourself”.
The SS20 collection is no different, except this time he is making a mockery out of capitalism. The models are churned out on the runway like McDonald’s churns out burgers. Name badges of these “McDonald’s employees” read nothing except 'Capitalism’. Some munch fries on their way down, whilst others are covered in capitalism’s biggest brands to the max - Heineken, Vodafone, Internet Explorer, and more. The models are representative of people who are consuming capitalism as much as it can be consumed.
But how do you mock capitalism when you, as a brand benefit from it? Vetements, is this self-satirising? The brand is a representation of the speedily growing gluttony of capitalism. Chowing-down on creativity to leave behind burps of ‘churn-out’ fashion. Anything is cool as long as it is made by a brand. Anything is worth the price tag as long as it has the brand tag. The paradox is, that Gvasalia’s depiction of this is in itself is a representation of creativity. It is appealing to the masses creatively. It is changing the face of high fashion, creatively. And when you’re being creative like this, I guess it’s completely acceptable to be this hypocritical.
We’ve seen a wave of ‘critical’ collections in the past year, such as Viktor and Rolf’s SS19 collection. The modern wave of ‘critical’ is a different kind of critical, though. It’s a type of self-criticism, which is out of focus and off the mark. We are aware of our problems, but we’re not bothered by them. We’re no longer being critical of the problem itself, but rather about our nonchalance in relation to it. We know that capitalism is a problem, but you know what is a bigger problem? The fact that we’re not doing anything about it. The fact that we don’t really care. That’s what we’re focused on. And here’s Vetements highlighting exactly that.
Demna Gvasalia’s collection is rough around the edges, but in a good way. The roughness is here to chafe us and mock us. It laughs at us because we accept it. We are intrigued by it. Demna Gvasalia’s criticism of capitalism asks us to look within and ask ourselves how much we really care. It is both the creative and the crap of capitalism, being both a product of it and its critic. So should you go check it out? Absolutely. Is it pure genius or a questioning of our collective intelligence? Well, it depends on how you wear it.
Cover painting is The Carpet Merchant of Cairo by Jean-Léon Gérôme.