Sunday, 29 January 2017

Vetements AW17 - I'm okay with being the butt of the joke.

I've always had a bit of trepidation about Vetements. While I'm one for poking fun at yourself or your surroundings, at calling out hierarchies and questioning established ideas, I was always cautious of the moment where Demna would turn around and slap us with the words, "No, I really was just fucking with you all and chancing my arm completely." I was afraid of defending something so passionately (which I've had to), only to be the butt of the joke. I mean, who likes feeling silly?

I was also afraid I was merely being caught up in the hype. That I just wanted to be one of the people in the know. That I had so long felt alienated as a young adult amongst my peers that I was quick to blindly jump head first into the legions of fashion "insiders" - really just another parade of people wanting to be accepted and ready to nod along in agreement, even when they aren't really sure.

Show the latest Vetements collection and the skeptics you faced so far are sure to smile in triumph. It seems rather indefensible. Like things dragged out of charity shops and presented up to people with too much money or too much of a desire to seem cool and who are willing to throw stupid amounts of cash at it. People who will grin as they are being swindled.

At first glance, it does seem like a bit of a joke. And not even a subtle one, at that. Vetements AW17 presented fashion stereotypes, "tribes", if you will. Parading down the runway was a cast of models that were diverse in size, gender and ethnicity and amongst them were bouncers, brokers, Parisiennes, tourists, hooligans, bros, Texans, emos, punks, metal heads, pensioners and, even, a sexy secretary. Many of the looks veered perilously close to costumes and much looked like something I wouldn't accept as a freebie, let alone pay for. "Wouldn't be caught dead in" comes to mind.

At first glance, it seems all very dystopian and morbid. A mish-mash of ideas that have circulated over the years and that have been resurrected and presented to us again.

And, of course, that is one way to look at it. And, perhaps, I give the brand too much credit when I say, "What then of Modern Art?"

It is hard to imagine now but Monet had his critics. Van Gogh was basically a life-long loser. And Duchamp was very much considered a chancer - still probably is by many, tbh. While I'm not outright saying Vetements will stand the test of time the same way (we could very well look back two years from now and shake our heads at it, label it all madness), I've decided to allow myself freely give them the benefit of the doubt instead of being cynical. We could all do with a little more hope these days, could we not?

I've decided to just enjoy Vetements. To watch them with curiosity. I won't be buying the awful tweed jackets or denim with the brand name emblazoned across the crotch but I appreciate the ideas and messages at hand. The discourse about fitting in, dress codes, elevating and celebrating the ordinary, and, always, how they imbue everything with their signature satirical approach. Even if you argue that some are reading more into elements than was ever intended, giving it all more depth than was originally there...well, that's kind of how all art works, isn't it? And Vetements have always been shown during couture week, not alongside RTW shows, so it isn't too much of a stretch to think them a little more artistic and conceptual than most.

Also, in my quest to be fair, I cannot help but point out that taste plays an important role here. Were we to look at many other shows, we would find much is often not to our own tastes, even if we like the overall vibe, and, certainly, much is not wearable (by most people) as presented in the actual show. The styling and presentation at fashion shows is the last time the designers hold their original ideas close to their chests before they are broken up and sold and restyled and absorbed into existing wardrobes all over the world.

Most likely, even the most ardent fans won't be rocking up to parties or down the street in full-on bouncer or sexy secretary cosplay. Instead, the ideas and pieces will be taken and used and diffused and transformed. It'll all be made a little more palatable. Perhaps the G-Dragons of the world will be able to stick closer to the original and make it work but the rest of us mere mortals cannot expect to do the same so readily.


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