Since founding Vetements, and taking over Balenciaga in 2015, Demna Gvasalia has rocked the fashion world. His latest creation, inspired by SKECHERS, immediately attracted a cult following.
Gvasalia’s meteoric rise to fame has been transformative to the fashion industry. His ability to transform “ugly” products into highly desirable items no matter the cost is attributable to the designer’s ingenious marketing skills and his understanding of social media. He has also corrected the perception that fashion has to be synonymous with pretty garments and opulent appearances: you do not have to look rich or luxurious to be “fashionable”. However, one cannot help but wonder what the designer’s intentions are and the impact he is having on our culture.
Gvasalia has said in various interviews that he would never personally spend a lot of money for any article of clothing. He sees it as a waste of money, and would rather spend it on travelling and food. Vetements’ DHL t-shirt that retailed for over $400, and their collaborations with the likes of Champion and Reebok (brands that are traditionally perceived to be “cheap”), are a product of this thinking. He is not trying to make conventionally unfashionable items become fashionable. He does not have any political intentions, nor any profound motivation to revolutionize the fashion industry. He is solely interested in making money (whilst minimising production cost), which is something that the designer has expressed many times and has done tremendously well in doing so.
Balenciaga’s Triple S sneakers are not attractive on any objective grounds. The shoes are too big, look cheap, and are ugly, as per intended by the designer. The hype around the shoes is simply a product of genius marketing strategies. Gvasalia understands that the younger generation is rapidly getting into fashion in substantial numbers, and understands the demographic very well. Any item with hugely conspicuous logos would sell well, especially among younger people getting into fashion, who want their spending power to be easily noticed. By working with some of the most popular celebrities like A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, and Kylie Jenner, sales skyrocketed because whatever their favourite celebrities wear is immediately captivating to this younger audience. Even if items like super-oversized and unwearable hoodies, $2000 leather IKEA bags, and now the SKECHERS-inspired shoes, seem like an incredibly wasteful investment, people still buy them because they are “cool”. Demna’s achievements do not lie in the fashion industry, but rather in the world of marketing and sales. He has proven that with the right marketing strategies, anything can sell, and for any business-inclined person, his work at Vetements and Balenciaga serve as a great example. But Demna is hardly a fashion icon. It would do him a tremendous disservice to identify him in that way. He does not design clothes for “fashion”, and has no regard for their appearances. The Triple S sneakers are not a fashion statement, but rather a political commentary on consumerism, and how easily people can be manipulated into spending a lot of money on something that clearly does not justify the high cost.
The impact of Demna’s work on fashion and our culture is substantial and manifold. On the one hand, he has challenged the very essence of fashion, and the reason for its existence: why spend money on clothes that look good, when you can get away with wearing anything as long as you have a strong understanding of yourself and your own individuality? You can look cool wearing a Champion hoodie, baggy trousers, and SKECHERS sneakers. On the other hand, he has exposed the ugly side of fashion. People are willing to pay a substantial amount of money to look “cool”, no matter how ugly they may look as a result. So, while you’re out purchasing yet another one of Demna’s “ugly” creations, consider that he is laughing at you for spending that money. You are a victim of his social commentary and the butt of his jokes.
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Words: Joonsoo Yi
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