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Vetements CEO Discusses Meteoric Rise, Says He Won't Do Fashion Forever

The Paris label's chief executive sat down with Vogue's Suzy Menkes at the British Vogue Festival in London over the weekend.
Suzy Menkes and Guram Gvasalia. Photo: Darren Gerrish/Vogue UK

Suzy Menkes and Guram Gvasalia. Photo: Darren Gerrish/Vogue UK

If 2015 was the year of Alessandro Michele, 2016 may go down as the Year of Vetements. The Paris-based label, started by Gvasalia brothers and Georgia natives Demna (the head designer) and Guram (the chief executive), has fixed the industry's attention as of late, landing more than 200 stockists in less than three years and routinely selling out of casual but cleverly done basics — think hoodies, DHL-branded T-shirts, reworked secondhand jeans — priced in the high hundreds or thousands of dollars. The pair have been under a bright spotlight since Demna was named artistic director of the famed couture house Balenciaga in October; his debut collection, in March, was extremely well-received. Shortly after, the brothers announced that Vetements would no longer be showing on the traditional show calendar, but during the pre-collections instead, and only producing two rather than four collections per year.

Over the weekend, Guram took the stage with critic Suzy Menkes at British Vogue's fifth annual Vogue Festival to discuss the means of Vetements's success. Here, a quick recap of their discussion.

How Vetements creates demand

Vetements has a high full-price sell-through rate — something, Gvasalia said, he's achieved by adhering to the simple law of supply and demand. "All the business people in the industry are ignoring this basic rule of business," he said. "I go to the store at the end of the season and I see clothes on sale; for me it means more clothes are supplied to the store than there was a demand. What we try to do is reduce a little bit of the supply curve... we [even] cut orders if we think stores are too optimistic about selling a certain style, because selling one piece less on the market, you're sold out, but selling one piece extra, you go on sale." While he said it's tempting to produce more of the label's sold-out $800 hoodies (which are currently fetching several times that on Ebay), he said the company has a policy of not reproducing and restocking any of its styles. Because Vetements has trained its customer to understand that everything will sell out full price, pre-orders are currently skyrocketing, accounting for up to 90 percent of a buy at some stores.

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As for why the designs themselves are compelling, Gvasalia said the company is committed to making uncomplicated clothes that people can move and travel in, that reflect "the reality of today."

Showing off-calendar

"Stores put 70 to 80 percent of [their] budgets into pre-collections… [And yet] we spend a lot of money on the main [collection], making a show. It never made sense to me why we're splitting it so much," said Gvasalia. Instead of showing its main collections in March and October during Paris Fashion Week, Vetements is going to show in January and June: That way clothes will be on shelves for six instead of two months, giving them an opportunity to sell out at full price.

Plans for couture

In July, Vetements will join the Paris couture shows as a guest designer for the first time. But don't expect any elaborate gowns — expect, instead, "ordinary" garments that "look simple, but [are] actually quite complicated," jeans included. "The definition of couture hasn't changed in 70 years," Gvasalia hinted. This, then, will be a collection to discuss.

On keeping Vetements's "It" status

"We're thinking about restructuring," Gvasalia said, without offering any further details. "Very quickly you can go from being the brand everyone wants to speak about to the brand that everyone gets tired of. I think personally I have an expiration date in the industry, I think I will be going into the hotel industry… maybe 10 years from now."

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