It’s the season of collaborations in the fashion industry: runway brands like Vetements and Gosha Rubchinskiy are working with sports brands more than ever, promoting more variety in high-end fashion and making pret-a-porter wearable for basically everyone.
Virgil Abloh’s OFF-WHITE is working with Umbro and Gosha Rubchinskiy is working with FILA and Kappa, but this season's record-breaking collection in terms of collaborations goes to Vetements, with 18 co-branded pieces on the SS17 runway. Even though they were added late to the Paris couture schedule, 18 partnerships seems excessive, and while some publications praised the last-minute collection, it seemed to be patched together during the 11th hour.
Should they have waited? Maybe. The athletic category seems to contain the most appeal for Vetements designer Demna Gvasalia, and it should come as little surprise whenever Vetements takes a left turn and gives a big middle finger to the system by doing something completely rebellious and outrageous. Nonetheless, a Juicy Couture collaboration was still a shock for most.
Trying to explain the Vetements x Juicy Couture collaboration to the uninitiated is a challenge. You either love Vetements or you hate it, and for those in the latter camp it's even more difficult to explain the decision to pair with Juicy.
Demna Gvasalia has quickly become fashion’s biggest rock star and is being praised for his creativity, innovation and continuation of Martin Margiela’s deconstructive work worldwide. In the past few seasons, Vetements has infused the fashion world with quirkiness - something the industry was missing - using well-known logos, faces and names to revive the Antwerp Six era of expressionism in today's fashion landscape. Using cultural references to make a statement makes perfect sense, but using 18 collaborations to create a full spring/summer collection comes across as desperate.
Vetements was invited to show at couture week, but the collection was far from couture. The brand has spoken about pushing their collection back by four months, which suggests that Demna has perhaps taken on too much work: working as Creative Director for Balenciaga and Vetements, all while trying to evolve the entire fashion industry. The collaborations hit the buyers before anyone else, which seems like a smart idea financially, but at what cost? A product that seems rushed and incoherent?
From a historical perspective, it's doubtful that early designers like Walter Van Beirendonck, Raf Simons, Martin Margiela and Rei Kawakubo would have pulled the same 18-collaboration card in one collection. Plus, it's hard to see Juicy Couture tracksuits fitting into the Vetements DNA. Juicy Couture was a wardrobe staple for any Laguna Beach-watching teen with dreams of a belly button ring in the early 2000s and died just as fast as it rose, but is there really a link between Orange County and Paris?
Vetements plays with irony a great deal and it’s never been a glossy brand: it's used cowboy boots, the DHL logo, the Champion font, Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet on a sinking ship to make fashion statements before. Mundane commercial images are deployed to create a stir and sense of bewilderment, as well as functioning as a jab at the commercial side of fashion. In this sense, then, the collaboration with Juicy Couture - a cringeworthy, nostalgic brand laden with cultural reference - shouldn't exactly surprise us.
How far will it go, though? Will punters start wearing Juicy Couture tracksuits to fashion week? Will we see Vetements x Uggs, Vetements x Ed Hardy and Vetements x Von Dutch, and do we want to? At this point Vetements seems at the precipice of an identity crisis, and it's unclear how far they'll traverse the commercial, irony-laden route before the whole shtick becomes tired. Is Vetements in control, winkingly repurposing the best and worst aspects of the fashion industry? Or are they increasingly desperate? It's unclear whether we should be laughing at or with them, but, then again, that's Vetements.
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.
For more Vetements content, see five ways the brand is inspired by Maison Margiela