The Vetements show was staged in a church and opened with its stylist Lotta Volkova marching down its marble aisles past fashion-occupied pews in a brown minidress with a high white lace collar, shiny white boots and sports socks. With her black hair slashed across the forehead in a blunt fringe, and clutching a yellow posy, she looked like a Carmelite monk gone rogue.
Sacred spaces, new fashion religion: the adoration surrounding the Vetements team, led by Demna Gvasalia and his brother Guram, has tipped into a kind of ecstasy of late. In addition to the culty street label he founded in 2014, Demna will unveil his first collection for the Kering-owned Balenciaga this weekend, and the power and influence he wields right now is mighty.
It was perhaps cheekily presumptuous then that the label should decide to host its AW16 show in a place of worship; and right from the outset it was an irreverent “up yours” to much of fashion orthodoxy. Many of the clothes were repeats from the past few collections; the over-knee cowboy boots, the jeans, the sock boot with the cigarette-lighter heels; the dresses which used a patchwork of recycled florals from last season.
Vetements’ success has been in building a capsule of classic pieces which have become near cult items in store, and then adding to those pieces with a new proposition. This rather hackneyed expression of “building a wardrobe”, used by so many designers to describe their trans-seasonal approach to design, is what Vetements really does: creating single pieces with a uniquely Vetements spin to which you add another.
This season’s spin was the shoulder which was pinched high, to hover artificially around the chin, or made massively wide and oversized to give looks a Herman Munster-style sense of disproportion. Sometimes it was padded for extra volume, other times a too-small hood simply dragged the shoulders upwards. Trousers were loose, there were lots of tartan and early 1990s-era plaids. Some check shirts had an arm ripped off. Most things were unisex.
Altogether it was a great show. The opening looks featured some excellent suits, shirts and Prince of Wales plaids and there were good gold velvets and trenchcoats. The clothes had real world wearable appeal without for a second seeming boring.
My only note of caution is that the beating heart of Vetements is becoming so engorged with its own greatness it might suddenly arrest. While so much of the collection was exciting and unexpected, street T-shirts splashed with slogans like “you fuck’n asshole” and “Justin4ever” teetered on the line in which anarchy meets anodyne — and trying to be incendiary could become irritating.
Not that they care what anyone thinks. Backstage, Demna was wearing another slogan T-shirt: “May the bridges I burn light the way.” It seemed like a fair commandment.