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Where the runway meets the street

It’s pretty much impossible to have a keen interest in fashion these days and avoid Vetements at the same time: a darling to some, an embodiment of fashion’s self-indulgent eccentrism to others, the brand’s ability to polarize opinion has earned it a level of free coverage that inoffensive, middling labels usually have to spend a lot of money on.

Yes, we’ve been some of the worst offenders. From op-ed‘s, to blog posts, to Facebook Live debates, we refuse to shut up about the Parisian upstarts. And here we are once more, talking about Vetements.

Our latest Vetements-inspired conversation starter is news that Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard and one of the NBA’s most stylish stars, was spotted at the opening game of the Western Conference final wearing a long-sleeved Vetements tee and a pair of custom white Ferragamo sneakers on his feet.

The oversized, orange-colored logo sleeve pullover that makes its wearer look like the ghost of a tangerine retails for around $635 on SSENSE. Well, at least it did before it sold out, meaning that there’s a fair few people out there who will actually pay these sort of sums for a poorly-fitted T-shirt with silkscreen lettering.

Sure, the brand’s CEO, Guram Gvasalia (baby brother to its head designer) may have recently revealed that individual retailers are sometimes given less than 10 pieces of a singular Vetements item each, but there are still people out there gobbling all of it up, and now we know who they are: professional sports stars.

The Parisian brand has a peculiar positioning: it likes to frame itself as streetwear yet it regularly makes appearances on Fashion Week catwalks, and its creator is so firmly embedded in the highest echelons of the fashion establishment that he may well be golfing buddies with Karl Lagerfeld.

Its clothing is somehow supposed to be as laidback and casual and everyday as a pair of budget sweatpants, but actually ordering a piece must be as wince-inducing as tearing off a bandaid for most people. But that’s only if you make the mistaken assumption that Vetements exists for most people. No, as we can see now, Russell Westbrook is a snapshot of its target consumer.

It makes sense: who else has enough money to treat the brand’s wares with the nonchalance that it likes to project? Who else can wear a several-hundred-dollar T-shirt to In-N-Out without having to worry that they might cover it in sauce stains? People like Russell Westbrook, basically, a man worth $35 million dollars, if the internet is to be believed.

But it goes beyond just mere economics. Someone like Westbrook is insulated by a thick bubble of celebrity. The snickers and glares that the average person wearing Vetements would be subjected to simply bounce off of him. Wearing the brand’s clothing isn’t just a negligible financial commitment for him, it also requires a negligible level of personal commitment as well.

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And let’s be honest here: sports stars are hardly epitomes of aesthetic sensibility. Come on, they play sports for a living, exercising their bodies rather than their minds. Their best subject in school was probably P.E. Sure, they may have the financial access to any piece of great fashion, but does that make up for a lack of taste? Would you honestly take fashion advice from someone like Neymar, someone who goes to an awards ceremony dressed like a Pokemon hunter from the 1800s? Would you turn to Wayne Rooney or Peyton Manning for suggestions on which book you should read next, or ask Conor McGregor on his thoughts on contemporary art?

Your answer to these questions should be a firm no, because they’re people with money rather than sense, which is also what makes them the ideal Vetements consumer – because who would really go through with this sort of purchase after thoroughly thinking it through? Even Demna Gvasalia says he wouldn’t and that says a lot.

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are those solely of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of Highsnobiety as a whole.

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