Vogue about Georgian designer’s collaboration with world’s leading fashion brands
02 October, 2017
Vogue about Georgian designer’s collaboration with world’s leading fashion brands
Vogue publishes very interesting interview with Georgian designer Demna Gvasalia’s brother, Guram Gvasalia. Guram is CEO of Vetements, a French clothing and footwear brand founded by his brother Demna Gvasalia, internationally recognized Georgian designer. The brand was founded in 2009 and became popular very soon.

Including Demna, Vetements is a design collective driven by Guram and five other friends. Championing a more 'pragmatic' approach to fashion, Demna reflects the 'down to earth nature' that he says is reflected in what
today's youth wear. Operating from a philosophical and methodological approach to his designs, Demna propelled Vetements to world class status in just three short seasons.

In interview with Vogue, Guram talks about the brand’s new collaborations, its business strategies and future plans. Recently, its newer associations include Tommy Hilfiger and Umbro.

Here is what Guram says about the label when talking to VOGUE:

Should I ever be stuck in an elevator for a few hours with someone—and given I’m pretty claustrophobic, this is praise indeed—then I hope that someone is Guram Gvasalia, the CEO of Vetements, and brother of the label’s designer Demna. Ostensibly, our conversation was meant to be about the collaborations that Vetements has done, and continues to do, as part of its creative and business strategies. Since its Spring 2017 collection, it has worked with all sorts of different partners, from Levi’s to Reebok; more recently, its newer associations include Tommy Hilfiger and Umbro.

Our chat was that, but it was also, as is Gvasalia’s wont, an illuminating and compelling discourse that touched on the wellness of the industry, the speed at which the business has assimilated its model of collaborations, and how the brand stays (at least) one step ahead. In the end, that’s what makes Gvasalia such an erudite and entertaining conversationalist: He’s opinionated, honest, and witty. This interview, incidentally, started as a meeting at the Rose Bakery in Dover Street Market New York, then became an email exchange a month or so later. Given the careful consideration he put into answering the questions, it only seems fair to run what he told me as he wrote it. Filtering, as you will discover, isn’t really his thing.

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A Vetements x Umbro shirt in the brand’s Spring 2018 collection

Photo: Courtesy of Vetements

Vetements’s Spring 2017 collection was entirely about the act of collaboration. I know you’ve spoken about this before, but remind me why you and Demna [Gvasalia] wanted to do this, and what informed your choice of collaborators?

There is a story in the Old Testament about a father giving a wooden stick to each of his sons and asking them to break it. Once they break the sticks, he gives each of them a bundle of sticks and asks to break those. None of them succeed. The moral is simple: If you keep together, you are harder to break.
There has always been this healthy, and sometimes not so healthy, competition in the industry. We never felt like we needed to compete with anyone. The one and only idea was to create a perfect wardrobe for a person.

Usually, people’s wardrobes do not consist of one single brand. A wardrobe will include items done by different brands, depending on the product category. So, this is when the idea came, to take the most iconic brands in certain product categories and bring them together, like the sticks in the story, to create a strong bundle, a perfect wardrobe.

What were the successes and challenges of those collaborations?

We had a blast to be able to work with 20 amazing brands in one single season. That season was exceptional and one of its kind. Therefore, it is funny to see that now it is becoming almost a must for brands to come up with as many collaborations as possible, whether those make sense or not, just for the sake of it. Following your heart is much more important than following trends that others create.

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Vetements x Levi’s jeans

Photo: Courtesy of Vetements

Who, out of that initial series of collaborations, are you still planning to work with, and why? Levi’s seems to have been very fruitful for you (and them); why is that?

It all has started with Levi’s. When in the first season we couldn’t get a sample of jeans that would look like true American denim, Demna ended up reworking two pairs of vintage Levi’s in what became our first jeans. From that moment, we knew we had to get Levi’s on board, to make with them the best jeans on Earth. Luckily, Levi’s seemed to be rather happy about our teams working together, and today we even get some of the reworked line to be produced at the original headquarters in San Francisco.

Another great partner for us has been Alpha Industries. Bomber jackets are a big part of our brand aesthetic and Alpha Industries is the greatest producer of those jackets. Our initial flight jacket done ourselves in Italy ended up having so many technical mistakes that we hope no one used them piloting a plane. It was clear [Alpha Industries’s] expertise was much needed, as our goal is to create the best possible product in its category. The partnership between us was inevitable and has been the smoothest and the most reliable one from the very beginning.

[And] Reebok is a chapter of its own. It is a smaller shark in the sportswear industry, however, this is exactly what makes it such a phenomenal partner for a brand like ours. The basic rule is that the bigger the company, [the] less efficient it is. More people, longer unnecessary discussions, and too many sign offs to get to any result. Basically, by the time product gets out, it’s probably already out of fashion.

Reebok is a different story. Their team has been extremely supportive and managed to work with our crazy schedules and doing things that go beyond usual collaborations. We had a full access to their archives, research and development, and newest technologies and no restrictions to whatsoever we can do with them. As a result, we just dropped on the market the “Genetically Modified Pump” model that was done out of 14 different archive sneakers of Reebok, cut apart, and put back together as a completely new shoe.

In addition to it, at the end of the year, we are launching a sock trainer that has been in development for almost two years, to create an only sneaker of that kind on the market, that is not merely a fashion item, but a real high-performance sports shoe.

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Vetements x Reebok sneakers

Photo: Courtesy of Vetements

Who have you added to your roster? And why did you choose them?

At this stage, we are not running after brands trying to do more collaborations, as it seems to become mainstream. Nevertheless, when things make sense in the context of the collection, we do them.

As an example, I was introduced to Tommy Hilfiger last winter in New York and we had such a great conversation. We laughed and said it would have been great to have met a year earlier while we were working on the season of collaborations to do something together. I spoke to Demna about my meeting with Tommy and a few weeks later, he came with a capsule collection—I didn’t even know he was working on it. Tommy was also excited, so we went with it and actually it turned out to become one of the most discussed items of the season.

Another highlight of the Spring ’18 collection was the partnership we did with Umbro. We always spoke about this brand but somehow didn’t manage to work with them in the past. And then one day, Demna came to the office wearing an Umbro piece and I told him we urgently needed to do a collaboration with them before anyone sees him wearing it. It’s an insider joke, and maybe you will be the first one, Mark, I would share it with.

We were in discussion with Ikea to create a project together, and before everything was agreed on, Demna wore one of the samples during our show in January 2017. After someone took pictures of him, Ikea hype went viral, however, we ended up not meeting the terms and the capsule was never released. Therefore, we knew if we wanted to work with Umbro, we had to act fast. Umbro’s team has been so cool to work with that maybe our partnership won’t stop just on our Spring ’18 collection.

The most recognizable out of all projects we have done was the DHL T-shirt. Only 250 T-shirts for the entire world and they made so much buzz. I visited the headquarters of DHL in Bonn, Germany, this year, and sat down with their CEO, Ken Allen. We didn’t realize what kind of impact that one T-shirt would have for both our companies on social media. Thousands of people were posting pictures of DHL trucks, and anything DHL related, and tagging Vetements on them. The brands’ association was undeniable. Therefore, it felt just right to create a small DHL capsule collection for our Spring ’18 collection. DHL is more than a partnership for us, it’s a friendship about which you will hear more along the road.

There is also one very special collaboration that was kept under the radar so far. We worked with Montblanc to create a perfect pen, a classic Montblanc pen in full metal in a limited edition of 50 pieces. This has been the only collaboration Montblanc has ever done with a fashion label.

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A Vetements x Tommy Hilfiger sweatshirt from the Spring 2018 collection

Photo: Courtesy of Vetements

What’s the ultimate satisfaction in collaborating?

Collaboration is an act of working together to achieve the same goal. For fashion brands, the goal should be more than making money and creating hype; it should be making product that is true to identities of both companies, that makes sense in the current state of their business, that is honest to the people who will wear and cherish it for a lifetime.

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