Gibson once wrote that ‘far more creativity, today, goes into the marketing of products than into the products themselves’.
In our ever more consumptive, and increasingly expeditious, society, getting ahold of the newest and most sought after is becoming more and more important.
But how do we cut through the white noise? Shed our Mylex and parse the onslaught of information, products, and opinions?
That’s where marketing comes in. For a Nike shoe designer to make a royal blue Cortez or Dunk Mid would require mere minutes. Image>Adjustments>Replace Color. Done.
Where the secret, and the challenge, lies, is in convincing the entire bloody world that they need a royal blue shoe. Your cream kicks? That gum sole? Sooooo last season, dahling. You know the drill.
One of the easiest ways people have been accomplishing this of late is with the co-sign. Pharrell throws a handful of Pantone swatches in the air, and Adidas makes the Supercolor collection. Was Pharrell’s input really necessary in order to ‘conjure’ up a powder pink shell toe official? Of course not. That’s a job for a colour wheel. I think we can all agree that his time would have been better spent making Mr. Me Too two. And if you disagree…brrappp brrappp, Chinese New Year. Heard?
But people will buy them if he’s involved. Buy pretty much anything, if he’s involved. In Paris, a year or so ago, the people sitting beside me at Derrière were rhapsodically discussing a short-haul pop-up where Pharrell ‘curated’ the brunch menu. Seriously? Who gives af what kind of E*G*G*S he prefers?
Except…the collabo is fashion’s sure thing. The equivalent of big budget Hollywood sequels. Nigo’s taste level has already been ‘verified’. Big blue checkmark. Twitter stee. Tom Cruise. Box office gold. Never mind that they call him Nigo, which literally means ‘number two’ in Japanese, as he was always seen as a sort of descendant (knock-off?) of Fujiwara Hiroshi, the mastermind behind Fragment, HTM, Honeyee, and Head Porter. Kinsella had it wrong. If you write Supreme on it, they will come. What are those espresso cups eBaying for these days, anyways?
So reputation becomes an economic commodity. Quantified cool. Borne of SuFu message board daps. Ratified by follower counts. Memorialized as a house in Montauk. The dinner invite from Sean MacPherson. The Jerome Sans air-kiss. The A$AP Rocky duo selfie.
Apartamento sells at double retail, but still we buy it, gratefully. They’re not thirsty for our attention, so we’re thirsty for theirs. Neek Lurk got it right. Anti Social Social Club.
And now, we come to the unrelenting King of this particular equation; example; thesis. Demna Gvasalia. Vetements. The new new arbiter of form. The Duke of deconstruction. Somehow, in a matter of what feels like months, the Hamlet to Margiela and Simons’ Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Yet, his mastery of the fashion world’s whisperings is such that even while writing this I’m in danger of forgetting that Vetements isn’t a solo enterprise, it’s a six-strong collective. Led, mythopoetically (with a Balenciaga nod, no less) by a bloke from a country most people mistake for a state founded by Ray Charles, subsequently remixed by Ludacris.
Sure, his exploration of form, function, structure, corporeality, is justifiably deserved of mythology. A Charlie Rose-style discussion between him and the ghost of Gerrit Rietveld would undoubtedly be my favourite film of all time not named La Grande Bellezza. Linearity may be damned, but geometry is clearly Gvasalia’s best friend.
And, yet, despite Gvasalia/Vetements’ frankly spectacular structural experimentation, the backlash, of late; she’s real. We love an underdog. But an almost instantaneous rise to the ethereal, it discourages goodwill. Particularly if the subject in question gets a little too smug.
It’s a delicate balance. A razor’s edge. Existing on the precipitous edge of a place where you’re so clearly doing better than everyone else, but still somehow seeming accessible enough that they root for you anyways. Karl always managed it, largely because he’s A) top five most ridiculously talented designers of the century, and B) he always (until a few short years ago, anyways) kept himself entirely out of the equation. On the other hand, Slimane and Ford failed in that miserably, engendering endless animosity.
Still, the negatives levied upon the likes of Ford, Slimane, Tischy, et al, tend to be class manifested. Anyone who sells any article of clothing for five figures plus runs the risk of classicist accusations, though Gucci, SLP, Dior, TF, et cetera manage to thread that needle to a certain extent. Their clothing is made of the most luxe materials on earth, bolstered by international ad campaigns that clearly cost tens or hundreds of millions, and presented in hyper-luxe locations that cost even more millions in rent. The kinds of places where salespeople bring champagne while you peruse.
But Vetements? Nope. None of that. Ssense sells it online. Alongside an assortment of intensely, almost pathologically, chic boutiques like The Broken Arm, which is port in the storm to that particular species of fashionista that feels that Colette, DSM, and 10CC are already long in the tooth.
An oversized cotton jersey t-shirt with the face of Snoop Dogg (Snoop Lion? Snoop Jaguar? Snoop Meerkat?) printed on it costs a totally reasonable $920USD. A long-sleeved t-shirt in black cotton, quality not dissimilar from American Apparel, with ‘May The Bridges I Burn Light The Way’ printed (not stitched) on the front? More than $1000USD. Even though you could cop a $20 t four sizes too big, and spend $14 more on printing to achieve roughly the same look. Oh, and that clever, poignant, pithy, near poetic text snippet? It’s from Beverly Hills 184.108.40.206.fucking.0. Strut Dylan, strut. Shoulders back. Ignore Steve and the twins. Who needs Eliot or Whitman, when you have Spelling and Star. Amirite?
Perhaps all of this is why Vetememes (read closely, it’s brilliantly subtle) is so cosmically satisfying. A no fuxks given, no holds barred, troll homage par excellence, Vetememes is surely the most interesting fashion x artscape bitchslap since Chloe Wise’s Chanel stomping ‘Bagel No. 5’, or perhaps even Just Another Rich Kid’s ‘I Fucked Anna Wintour’ t-shirt (which caused such a furor that post-lawsuit they’re not even findable on Google!).
In a lovely hip-kid bragging-right twist, it turns out that Vetememes is the brainchild of Davil Tran, of Grailed. Yet, end of the day, Vetememes’ trolling game is sharp. Capital S. That Snoop whomever OS t? Vetememes’ version is identical, save for the ruthless subversion of icons, substituting the Based God, Lil B for the prince of Gin & Juice. Low key icon step-up. But that’s cool, bc clearly freestyles are more affordable than major-label features. $75. Not $920. And, yet, somehow, paradoxically(?) the cred is amplified. Trust that tru Hypebeasts will forevermore prioritize Vetememes over Vetements. At least until next Tuesday. When they’ll stop caring altogether.
Fashion is a game that moves as you play, to quote/paraphrase X Japan. And, no great surprise, the faster you climb that ladder, the faster the rungs can slide out from under you.
Gvasalia, and Vetements in general, are possessed of monstrous talent. But, at this level, pretty much everyone is. The Icarus parable is real. As is the danger illuminated within.
Don’t fly too close to the sun. Unlike burned bridges, singed wings light the way for no one.