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#CNILux: Vetements vs The Establishment

Photo: Yannis Vlamos /

Guram Gvasalia, co-founder and CEO of Vetements, in conversation with Suzy Menkes at the CNI Luxury Conference in Oman. Photo by Indigital

Vetements’ metamorphic approach is frank and fearless: it only actions limited production numbers to ensure exclusivity, loyalty and the ability to permanently sell at full price; it has brought its ready-to-wear shows in line with menswear to give longer time on the shop floor; and it won’t open its own online shop as there are e-tailers who do it better. But, is the influential label that brothers Demna and Guram Gvasalia founded in 2014 more than just a fashion disruptor?

“It depends how you look at it,” said the brand’s CEO Guram Gvasalia on the first day of the CNI Luxury Conference in Oman. “Disruption isn’t a positive word. Three years ago, the reason we started the brand was because Demna had worked for big companies and never felt fulfilled. I saw a frustration in him and I wanted to help him. It was never the idea to disrupt anything; we have only ever wanted to make sense and do what we love. I think the problem isn’t that we are trying to disrupt, but that the industry is falling behind.”

“The mother always wants to wear what the daughter is wearing, but the daughter doesn’t want to wear what her mother is wearing”

On the current status of the rest of the industry, Gvasalia is clear: it needs to reinvent the wheel – especially as “the mother always wants to wear what the daughter is wearing, but the daughter doesn’t want to wear what her mother is wearing”, as he put it, to nods from the delegates.

“I always say that we need to change and update the strategies for the 21st century and not work the same way we worked in 1992,” he said. “Today it’s not even enough to be in the 21st century – you have to be in 2017. We are trying to have a dialogue with today and do what we like to do … Brands use short-term strategies like a one-night stand. They’re afraid of what’s going to happen after.”

Explaining how his childhood in Georgia during the civil war of the early Nineties has affected his entire outlook on life, Gvasalia revealed that it has given him a perspective on the industry that others don’t always have.

“I always think, if we don’t deliver this T-shirt on time, it is not the end of the world, there are worse things that can happen,” he explained of having a more important point of reference. “You’re not afraid; you’re not afraid of what people think about you or of making mistakes. You just have to enjoy life. All these experiences shape you.”

He also revealed how it informs his opinion of his chosen industry and how he operates within it.

“For us, as long as we are doing what we think is right, it’s not the about the money. If you’re interested in money, fashion is not the right industry. Every six months you have to prove something … It’s a harsh industry that can put you on a pedestal and quickly throw you off it.”

The trick, according to Gvasalia, is to “never become a part of the Establishment and always look from the outside. It’s not about being an outsider, but being outside the Establishment gives a different perspective on it”, he said, before sharing a secret that will come as a surprise to many: growing up, his biggest dream was to become CEO of Chanel. “It was all because of Karl Lagerfeld,” he disclosed.

Vetements is known for its collaborations – could this high praise of Chanel’s figurehead result in just that? You heard it here first.

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