Vetements Makes a Statement on Fashion's Toll
And speaking of Demna Gvasalia being in on things, I am intrigued by the latest from Vetements: an installment of clothes piled high in the display windows at Harrods. It is a resounding statement from one of the most important labels in high fashion today: the fashion industry is producing too much. And we are consuming too much.
Speaking with British Vogue, Guram Gvasalia, Vetements' CEO, says this:
"The problem with sustainability today is that people look at it from the wrong perspective. Yes, where you produce and how you produce is super important. But what people are overseeing is something that’s right in front of our eyes: it’s about how much brands produce and how much consumers buy..."
He continues, making overtly critical remarks about the fashion industry for being overzealous, for confusing business and fashion—for essentially making clothes to make money.
"I sold four-thousand pairs of sneakers on Ssense.com in four days, but this is not my goal anymore. It breeds greed. I’m not chasing numbers. I don’t need my company to be worth a billion. You can make money like that much more easily outside of fashion...[Turnover is] not the main goal. The goal is to create amazing clothes for people who want to buy them."
Said by just anyone in the fashion industry, these statements would be accurate and insightful, maybe even a little courageous depending on who said them. But spoken by someone in the privileged position that Vetements occupies in fashion today, they feel to me somehow revolutionary. Here is an insider brand, an industry darling, a success story, calling the current state of affairs in fashion "toxic." Is this the beginning of real change?
That's at the industry level, but at a personal level, what Vetements is doing, and what Guram Gvasalia is saying, resonate deeply. As I've navigated my perspective on sustainability and fashion, it has felt at times that somehow sustainability and fashion can't co-exist harmoniously. Either the sustainability is put first, and the fashion lags behind, or the fashion is prioritized, and the notion of sustainability is cast aside (or, at least temporarily). In my work, I've consistently pushed back against this limiting framework. Because as I see it truly good-with-a-capital-F-Fashion is anything that is made with intent and then bought with intent, which means, plainly, that fashion in its purest form is by definition sustainable. Looking closely at the fashion industry, couture is proof that the very best of fashion is also the most sustainable: handiwork, limited production, heritage, craftsmanship, and meticulous attention to detail. Speaking about fashion's waste Gvasalia says, "Statistically, thirty percent of what brands produce ends up in landfills. Garbage." How can a designer pour their heart and soul into something knowing that roughly one out of every three items she produces will meet this fate? How can we, in turn, form a connection with clothes that mean so little to their maker? We need voices in the conversation, particularly ones that wield power, to say precisely what Vetements is saying: caring about sustainability doesn't mean putting the fashion second, it means loving it from a deeper and more lasting place.