Upon arriving at the Galeries Lafayette, where the show was staged ('A shopping mall was the initial idea, but it was impossible to find in central Paris,' claimed Gvasalia), one had to push one’s way in through a crowd of hopeful show-crashers and customers shopping for sales, then get to the first floor, where the seating was divided by sections according to different brand corners (mine was Marc Jacobs). It was all a play on marketing, down to the invite, a shopping guide, and the show’s soundtrack, the deliciously cheesy nineties tune Like a Star. The clothes were no exception, and if the spontaneity and the urge of the brand’s first three shows were missing from this one, the no-nonsense, pragmatic approach was more present than ever. The collective simply but effectively focused on perfecting its best-sellers and trademark pieces. They were all there: oversized suits, shirts and trench coats, more unabashedly Margiela than ever, undersized Levi’s denim and corduroy ensembles, Canada Goose puffas, flowy flower dresses, waist-high boots in satin - Manolo Blahnik’s bold contribution - and, of course, tracksuits, this time in strassy, pink stretchy velvet (one has to bow down to Demna’s team for bringing Juicy Couture back from the dead with such brio). There was an obvious sense of self-consciousness to the collection - after all, all eyes in fashion are looking at Gvasalia and stylist Lotta Volkova. It was mostly a coup of commercial genius, probably Guram Gvasalia’s, Demna Gvasalia’s brilliantly finance-oriented brother and Vetements' CEO - one that left the public wondering whether it was all witty criticism on mindless consumption or just sheer opportunism.
What does it mean for the fashion industry - and for the ever-so-conservative Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne - when the most anticipated couture show of the season is one that has nothing to do with the technical principles of couture? At the Vetements show on Sunday, embroideries and made-to-measure clothes were nowhere to be seen. Demna Gvasalia and his team had not worked with Lesage, Lemarié or Desrues. Instead, they collaborated with 18 popular brands including Reebok, Carhartt, Eastpak, Levi’s, Canada Goose and Champion. Unorthodox, but what if that was just an inventive new look on what couture is? 'For us, the couture approach is really the know-how of these manufacturers,' said Gvasalia after the show. 'We would never approach couture with the classic understanding of what couture is. We use a lot of typical Vetements design tricks, I would say, and merge it with the product of the collaborator.' Of course the Vetements team could never do things like anyone else: 'disruptive' is Demna’s middle name, and disrupt he did.