I become so excited when I encounter a truly intellectual designer who has the capacity to tap into the "meta" narratives in our society and is able to engage the world in conversation. Designers who can do this have metacognitive skills which means they are highly aware of their own thought processes. What makes them truly remarkable in my mind is the way they convey their thoughts through the medium of clothes and the choices they make about where to present them, who will wear them and even the invitations that are printed to view them.
The designer who is using this skill to engage us in a relevant cultural discussion right now is Demna Gvasalia and the collective known as Vetements. You can imagine how delighted I was that the topic to be explored in their couture show was the idea that clothes are used to construct identity. The designer's favorite subject was sociology and this is reflected in his analysis of identity from a person in group perspective, a welcome change from the focus on individualism and the dictate that one must stand out from those around them. The models in the show embodied common stereotypes and the invitations were fake ID cards from all around the world printed with the guests names.
The inspiration for the concept came from a photography project called Exactitudes based in the Netherlands where the photographers (Ari Versluis and Ellie Uyttenbroek) are making a case against uniqueness by cataloguing similarities found among social groups. The overall effect is to understand that in the end we are unremarkable as individuals as we all belong to something. And those somethings are diverse and global. The best part of the show is that the stereotypes are comprised of models wearing "everyday" clothes like bathrobes, woolen cardigans, hoodies and skinny jeans. Vetements has become an extremely successful brand by putting its own twist on everyday items like Champion Sweatshirts. The irony of course is that these everyday items sell at luxury prices. Best of all was that this show is Vetements contribution to Couture Week, usually a lavish and otherworldly presentation. How wonderful to know that if I wish, I can disappear into my stereotype of white hair and control it, instead of it controlling me. Ah the power of fashion!
How does fashion empower you?