"It's a collab". Ah, how many times we heard this statement in interviews with people working in the fashion industry. Usually this abused term – collaboration – came to define a product/collection devised by a brand together with an artist, a celebrity or a high fashion blogger or maybe a one-off project between a fashion house and a high street retailer.
In some cases the "collab" in question generated money, in others media revenue. In most cases it proved that, in modern times, the majority of people are interested in collaborating for money reasons, so that the revered "collab" is nothing more than a well-marketed exercise of prostitution.
Cool collective Vêtements took the concept a step further yesterday when they launched their Spring/Summer 2017 men and women's wear collections during Couture Fashion Week in Paris.
The collective opted to risk it all and moved the show from October to July, thinking the timing would play in their favour since buyers who are in Paris for the pre-collections around this time usually have more money to spend.
Since they had to anticipate the show, the design group decided to split the work and look for professional help, asking a long list of names to collaborate with them. For the next season they therefore designed denim jumpsuits with Levi's; sportswear with Reebok, sweatshirts with Champion, gigantic overalls with Carhartt, functional bags with Eastpak, cowboy boots with Lucchese, and huge puffer jackets with Canada Goose.
Manolo Blahnik's satin stiletto boots were transformed into waist-high boots, while Juicy Couture's horrid stretch velour sweats and tracksuits were turned into skin-tight high-neck catsuits with sewn-in gloves or long skirts slit to the bottom.
The rainbow flag top (slightly reminiscent of the jumpers on dubious '80s kids UK show Rainbow…) was created instead in collaboration with Comme des Garçons, Alpha Industries worked on the MA-1 bomber jackets and the "supersize me" suits that opened the show were monstrous versions of Brioni's suits. Further garments were designed in collaboration with Hanes, Mackintosh, Dr. Martens, Church's, Kawasaki and Schott.
The collection generated wonderfully enthusiastic reviews like everything Demna Gvasalia has done so far, but, as a whole, it didn't seem to feature anything extraordinarily new.
Huge jackets sliding off shoulders and coats as wide as fridges; cropped trousers, big shirts twisted and turned on the models' bodies to create body "un-conscious" silhouettes that offend and vilify the wearer; long belts left hanging from trousers; high boots matched with flower-printed dresses like the one Lotta Volkova donned at the end of the show; horrid suppository-shaped hunch-shouldered hoodies or horrendous tracksuits that not even juvenile delinquents may want to wear are indeed all part of the Vêtements-meets-Margiela vocabulary that has now extended to Balenciaga's menswear collection.
Apparently this is the ultimate fashion revolution, or that's how it gets called by the media. The problem is that most of the media are currently running after trends and cults or are extremely desperate to keep their jobs, so they are not keen to admit that collaborations always existed in fashion.
Fashion is a naturally collaborative business: a fashion designer works with a team and the products manufactured under the Haute Couture or Ready-to-Wear categories are made in collaboration with ateliers, craftspeople or industries.
So in this case we are not witnessing anything incredibly innovative or a genius at work, but a new phenomenon: a younger generation of fashion designers who is not interested in coming up with a ground-breaking material, fabric or manufacturing process that may go down the history of fashion, but that seems happy at remixing things while using the know-how of existing manufacturers (the clothes included in this collection will be made by the brands in their own factories) to make ridiculous looking but hyped up clothes.
Mind you, on the other side there are also several brands desperate enough to collaborate on any uber-hip projects that may come their way (after all, new Brioni director Justin O'Shea has so far put the "cool" factor as the first and foremost point on the company's agenda, thinking the company's workers are secondary elements to the process of manufacturing a "cool product"...).
Yet cults and cool things generate temporary quakes and not permanent revolutions and, rather than sounding like a message of hate to the industry for setting self-destructive rhythms and cycles, this collection looked like the final fetish fantasy for a tribe of cult aficionados keen on spending money on the umpteenth remix of nonsensical clothes.
Rest assured, critics will see philosophy and power in these clothes or Émile Zola's Au Bonheur des Dames and Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project in the choice of venue - the fashion floor of Galeries Lafayette (no, Vêtements is not stocked there - yet; some critics compared the choice of venue to Alexander McQueen's early shows in warehouses, but at least McQueen knew how to cut a suit...).
Somehow the only link with Benjamin's Arcade when seeing the rather vapid contents of this collection was the opening quote to this volume taken from Nouveaux Tableaux de Paris (1828) in which the arcades are described as magical places full of objects showing "to the amateur on all sides, in the objects their porticos display, that industry is the rival of the arts".
As the models walked around the boutique spaces spelling the names of luxury brands such as Fendi, Moynat, Dior and Saint Laurent, it became clear that these clothes do not have much to do with rebellion or art, but they are an expression of fashion decadence, showing the cold detachment of designers and a certain degree of absurdity currently reigning supreme in fashion.
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