Vetements vs. Reclaimed Vintage
It’s rather impossible to have gone through 2016 without hearing Vetements at least once, the French-born streetwear label that’s re-shaping the current fashion system with their ground-breaking styles and moves: from the eyebrow-raising waist-high boots on the runway to their distinctive post-Soviet aesthetics, from debuting during Couture Fashion Week without a single handmade embroidered gown to their “Official Fake” garage sale in Seoul Fashion Week. You name it. Spotted on Kanye, Frank Ocean, Travis Scott and many other style icons, Vetements has sent everyone into a minor frenzy – everyone wants to own a Vetements DHL t-shirt or a pair of their raw hem jeans, until they see the price tags. A yellow DHL-logoed t-shirt costs £185 and a pair of jeans would cost a staggering £890, enough to drive off the majority of admirers.
With such huge market potential, high street brands are starting to take their inspiration from the trend Vetements has created. Reclaimed Vintage, presented by ASOS, has launched designs featuring elongated sleeves, super-oversized silhouettes, and blackletter prints – basically all the signature elements of Vetements – but for a fraction of the original prices. If you are not extremely familiar with every single item in Vetements’ collections, you would think these clothes you see on ASOS were actually designed by Demna Gvasalia himself. With such affordability, it might be a good way to get behind the trend without breaking the bank, but is buying designer knock-offs killing the creativity of fashion industry?
One great argument is that fashion copycats channel everyday people to the high fashion scenes. With such eye-watering prices, high fashion tends to remain available to an exclusive group of people, namely the fashion aficionados or the financially privileged, and thus has difficulties creating trends. You might see Vetements being spotted on Kanye, Justin Bieber and Kylie Jenner, people that have nothing to do with your life, whereas with high street versions, you will see it on your friends, classmates, colleagues, and people around you in real life. That’s what we call trend. When trends die, designers are encouraged to create new trends to stay ahead of others. In a nutshell, fashion copycats sparkle creativity. Plus, people who shop on ASOS are not likely to shell out £900 casually on a pair of jeans anyway, so there is no direct harm in the interests of luxury brands.
Speaking of the imitations of Vetements out there, from counterfeits to “Vetememes” founded by a 22-year-old from Brooklyn, Demna Gvasalia generally has a relaxed attitude. Of course, he does. As a guy who has printed DHL logo and Titanic poster on his garments, he seems to be fond of taking inspiration from everyday pop culture himself. In an interview with The Telegraph, he even said that he would rather “go on a vacation than buying his own designs”. If that’s the case, why are we spending a fortune to support his vision and aesthetics then?
That being said, if you look closely into the clothes from Reclaimed Vintage, you would still be able to spot some differences in their designs in terms of materials, finishes, silhouettes – and Vetements has clearly shown more finesse in all these fields. To outstrip copyists, Vetements has also shaken up their show schedule and planned to pull the show 2 months before the conventional schedule, giving another reason to reject the temptation of high street copies. Usually, after the main collection of a luxury brand is shown, it will take up to 6 months for the garments to become available on the shelves, which means high street brands have the opportunity to make cheap copies and sell them before the originals are produced. In today’s world, we all expect instant gratification and that could be a main reason of us opting for the high street versions, when the originals are not yet available. But with the exclusivity Vetements created with their change in show schedule, there is one more reason to support the original designs.
Relevant read: The price of hype: Has Vetements gone too far?