Led by Georgia-born Demna Gvasalia and his brother Guram, these European fashion designers have a unique notion of what is classified as fashion. Making clothes that are meant to be worn, Vetements (simply meaning ‘clothes’ in French) has been disrupting the fashion world, and their business story will have you kicking off your stilettos and running for their collection.
They had a dream of taking every day, ordinary garments, and turning them into a bold fashion statement that people fight to get their hands on.
Picture this. Instead of putting Cinderella in an epic sparkly ball gown, why not take her working clothes and jazz them up a little? Industrial chic anyone? That’s what Vetements did with a simple DHL postal uniform.
Who knew a simple DHL T-shirt would champion a fresh new fashion craze? Following Vetements’ lead, celebrities, fashion figures and influential bloggers have also channeled their combined influence and jumped on the industrial bandwagon.
In 2016, people went crazy for T-shirts made by Vetements, who chose to showcase the DHL logo in a completely new red and yellow light. That’s right, we said DHL. It might initially seem a crime of fashion, but when you delve deeper into the message behind the brand and what makes this simple yet powerful concept so successful, you find a revolutionary, culture-shaping story.
Behind every interesting fashion brand is an interesting story, and Demna Gvasalia certainly fits that brief. He grew up in Soviet Georgia, where all his friends wore the same clothes and fitted into what was at the time a unified society.
"My family moved from ex-Soviet Georgia to Düsseldorf in 2000, and I stayed there for a year and a half. It was a brief period, but significant in that it was where I figured out what I wanted to do." Says Gvasalia, in an interview with 032c.com
From one type of dressed up existence to another, perhaps it was these uniformed younger years that have shaped his fashion-forward vision. When he entered the fashion industry he wanted to challenge the system, much in the same way as DHL’s own start up story, when they challenged the already established postal industry in 1969.
His fashion background involves dipping his couture toes in major fashion designers' pools, studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp and working at Louis Vuitton, where he trained under Marc Jacobs and Martin Margiela. There are even whispers that Vetements’ anonymous team are made up of his former colleagues and college friends.
Vetements know how to deliver, with their lines notoriously selling out almost instantly, partly because they only make a selected number of pieces. This is in a bid to reduce the treadmill like production system and put the focus back on creativity, thus injecting some vigor back into the world of fashion.
Last year, Vetements wanted to feature the DHL logo on one of their T-shirts. Where many global brands would have thrown the copyright book at the young upstarts, DHL saw an opportunity to showcase their brand in a new light. The cool factor of this cutting edge brand would give DHL a more human angle, as well as giving the brand exposure to an unexpected audience.
They allowed Vetements to use the logo in exchange for a small number of T-shirts. Which, by the way, retailed at around a cool $200 each. That’s the power of this particular startup – take an everyday item and turn it into something people are dying to get their hands on, because making a statement is what the Vetements ideal is all about.
And it didn’t go unnoticed. Their design was thrust into the social networking spotlight and picked up by a number of high-profile celebrities, featuring on their social media accounts. A-list celebs like Kanye West, Rihanna, Selena Gomez and Kylie Jenner have all been spotted wearing the brand.
The story of the Vetements DHL tee became a sensational fashion story last year, generating millions of impressions for DHL and making the international press. It’s an excellent example of a smart business decision by a well-known brand; what could have been a run of the mill corporate battle was masterminded into a fashion takeover.
It’s a success story that should inspire many fashion designers and brands worldwide, and a demonstration of what happens when brands make love not war. DHL Express CEO Ken Allen even tweeted a photo of himself wearing one of their T-shirts.
The arrangement displayed DHL as an enabling global e-commerce and fashion brand. It’s a good fit for DHL, who play a crucial role as the official logistics provider for Fashion Week events around the globe.
It seems Gvasalia isn’t done with the DHL logo yet. They want to get you covered from head to toe, recently announcing a new range of courier-inspired garments featuring the logo – including DHL Vetements socks, sweatpants, a polo shirt, cap and, of course, the ubiquitous Vetements hoodie. The logistics trend has never looked so good.
The brothers who own the brand are notoriously against some of the standardized practices in fashion. Catwalk shows? Not for them. They instead launched their latest collection using ordinary people instead of catwalk models around landmarks in Zurich. According to Fashionista.com, they debuted the "Spring 2018 collection via private appointments to buyers and press rather than during couture week."
It’s clear that Vetements seriously get social media. Guram Gvasalia explains, "Today, because everything moves so fast, no one wants to think long-term. They buy a hoodie, they put it on, they take a selfie and put it on Instagram, it brings them closer to a certain group of people and they feel a sense of belonging."
With the story making a strong impact in unexpected territories such as China, it’s no surprise that fashion fans around the world have gone absolutely nuts for this season’s range on social media. New data analyzed by Business of Fashion, the leading digital authority on the global fashion industry, in partnership with fashion search platform Lyst – which tracks 4.5 million data points per hour from over 65 million annual consumers, 4 million products and 12,000 brands – puts Vetements in fourth place for sales, behind Gucci, Yeezy and Balenciaga.
This partnership was clearly a business marriage made in heaven, or in this case, on a delivery truck. We don’t know about you, but we are excited for the next chapter in this partnership and to see people wearing the new pieces. Watch this space.