In Equilibrium: Womenswear

A New Guard Emerges

Vetements

Online, everything is equal. Image follows image in a sprawling infinity like the perfect horizontal of a Sugimoto photograph – until the euphoria of hype sends a #trend speeding skywards like a cork from a champagne bottle.

Today, if a debut collection strikes a chord, it can make as much noise as the most established Parisian houses. But young designers have earned it. They’ve put in the work and are backing up the waves of iPhone photos and Style.com show details with production just as sophisticated as the old guard’s. Just like their menswear counterparts, rising women’s designers Vetements, Eytys, and Thomas Tait are sharing factories and challenging norms with the industry’s finest: old and new in equilibrium.

Thomas Tait

It was Vetements that really got editors in Paris talking recently. Designer Demna Gvasalia staged his second catwalk in gay club Le Depot amidst the smell of sex and booze, with an invitation image showing a rebranded bottle of poppers. It was heralded as one of the hottest shows of the season – and Vetements as one of the most exciting new labels in the industry.

Gvasalia is an alum of Maison Margiela and Louis Vuitton. His evolving team are former colleagues or designers he studied with at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. He has enough experience for his emerging label, which combines the familiar with a liberated flair and a cerebral sex appeal, to be brilliant from the start.

Vetements

Yang Li

What matters is the product, the clothing, especially when we live in the era of too much everything.

—Demna Gvasalia

“There are many problems to solve at different levels, but this can be fun once we believe in what we do,” Gvasalia explains. “What matters is the product, the clothing, especially when we live in the era of ‘too much everything.’ ”

Vetements uses factories the big conglomerates use “because some of them have an amazing know-how for doing certain products. Depending on the type of garment, we try to define its level of execution and craftsmanship.” The brand simultaneously produces in smaller, specialized ateliers, depending on the piece.

Thomas Tait is another designer making an impact in Paris. The London-based Canadian whose label is synonymous with craftsmanship, emotional intellectualism, and modernism was the first talent to win the inaugural LVMH Prize in 2014, scooping up €300,000 plus a year-long mentorship. The panel that awarded him included Louis Vuitton's Nicolas Ghesquière, Céline’s Phoebe Philo, Karl Lagerfeld, Raf Simons, Kenzo's Humberto Leon and Carol Lim, Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, and Marc Jacobs. That his brilliant clothes have been endorsed by some of the industry’s most established shows how far emerging designers have come – and nods to the relationship new voices enjoy in a panoramic fashion context.

I’ve noticed that during this difficult economic climate people look to fashion with a thirst for escapism, but lean towards normalcy and even conventionalism when shopping.

—Thomas Tait

“I launched my label in 2010, the pit of a financial recession. It’s very easy to see the rise of media interest and how it can quickly surpass commercial growth,” Tait reflects. “I’ve noticed that during this difficult economic climate people look to fashion with a thirst for escapism, but lean towards normalcy and even conventionalism when shopping. This contrast creates a huge challenge for brands who, as a result, live in what might feel like a limbo space between the runway and the racks.”

Yet there has to be harmony: there cannot be an abrasive gulf between art and commerce. Jonathan Hirschfeld and Max Schiller of Stockholm sneaker brand Eytys believe above all in a refined product.

“We’ve dared to really focus, not trying to do everything all at once, which has allowed us time for tweaking and perfecting,” explain the duo. “To go all geeky, deep. It’s very hard to do that when working for a big house that always has to re-invent itself at a very fast pace.”

Each x Other

“I do think the pressure has increased significantly,” Thomas Tait remarks. “With the internet and social media in mind, by default brands launch on a global platform. With such a wide audience and an ever-growing commercial reach, it’s understandable that viewers and consumers of fashion do not have the patience, knowledge, or care whether a brand is a small operation or a huge conglomerate machine. What is usually desired is an end product, the best possible end product… the consumer has no interest in hearing ‘excuses’ from brands. High fashion products need to be amazing no matter where they’re coming from.”

“As a designer, you realize that you have very few chances to communicate the physical story behind the clothes,” Tait continues. “You have to trust that the product speaks for itself. The quality and cut has to be felt – that’s the best communication tactic.”