I actually never intended to commit any pixel real estate to what this piece is about but today, whilst doing my rounds on the internets, I saw the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Dramatic, I know. I’m pretty sure anyone, whether you’re interested in style or not will have some sort of an opinion on this, and most likely it’ll be an opinion shared by majority. The sane people.
With this backdrop, I’m essentially talking about cultural appropriation. That would be in reference to a couple of “high fashion” luxury brands out there packaging it as some sort of exclusive must have item. So if that peaks your interest at all, read on.
So, that term, cultural appropriation. The adoption or use of elements of one culture by members of a different culture. Ultimately, it’s seen as quite controversial practice as generally the assimilation of multiple cultures is risky business and might be viewed as exploitative or disrespectful. So, keep that in mind when you read about what made me want to get some words down about these brands.
Vetements is the Paris fashion collective responsible for the main gripe at the root of this article. With the gentleman at the helm having ties with the likes of Gucci, Balenciaga, Margiela and Louis Vuitton you can expect the garments in question are going to cost a lot of money. At this point, it’d be great if you could scroll down to the two images below. That’s right, it’s Snoopy D-O-double G’s glorious mug from the early 90’s, adorning a T-shirt. Okay, so, the one on the left (top) is from Vetements and will run you approximately £650.
The one on the right (bottom) is actually a vintage tee which, if you found it, would simply run you the thrift store cost, or perhaps a little more at a vintage consignment store. So what’s the problem? Well aside from the insane price point, what we’re looking at is basically the same design. Of course, Vetements will say the mark up is due to the cut of the fabric, sourcing materials and exclusivity. It’s hard to buy that though right? This is a t shirt after all.
And just to give the angle that supports what they’re at, look no further than the infamous DHL t shirt. If you haven’t seen one, and you’re chomping at the bit to pick one up, well you’re in luck, but only if you’re a size XS. Crazily, this t shirt, at £185 has all but sold out online and in pretty much every bricks and mortar location they’re hanging in. They’re nailing supply and demand it would seem. Perhaps it's something that only people with the sort of cash to drop on this stuff without caring will get.
But the idea, in a creative sense, seems hilariously stale and lack lustre to me. It’s like an ridiculously expensive joke. Of course, other brands have subverted logos or been playful with the representation of their own to mimic corporations and the like. Take a look a the Coca Cola box logo or this Palace Panasonic flip. There is a subversive quality to the design language/result here that’s both humorous and remains accessible. Equally, they don’t call image rights into question which is a plus as well. There’s a merit in it that. Just toeing the line and having fun. That’s gone a miss at Vetements.
I’m not sure they’re the first to do it though. Fear of God, a label steered by Jerry Lorenzo leans heavily on the idea of re appropriation. His Resurrection line of t shirts were basically vintage punk/heavy metal band shirts that he re branded with Fear of God. I sure there was an element of selection. An actual effort to source and subvert the origin of design. But I’m equally sure any one wearing OG Metallica, Sepultura and Nirvana t shirts would see guys wearing Fear of God designs and question what exactly happened culturally in the past couple of years.
There’s a sort of exploitation in that. A dilution of culture. Maybe that doesn’t matter to most people who don’t think twice about what clothes they throw on each day. But these things hold importance. And you can bet 90% of the guys wearing this stuff haven’t got the faintest clue when it comes to the kind of music they’re supposedly representing.
The spheres of influence collide and the outcome is kind of messed up. At the minute the kind of consumer making these designs sell out is holding the head steady as the brands milk the cow. I’m intrigued to see the bubble bursting on this sort of thing but it’ll most likely move on to the next hype. Cheers for reading if you got this far.