Vetements lead designer Demna Gvasalia clapped back at HighSnobiety for an article it published yesterday (March 29, 2018) with a headline reading, “2 years After They Broke the Internet, It Looks Like Nobody is Buying Vetements.”
In a post on Instagram, Gvasalia responded with strong words and his own accusations, writing, “Vetements does not support wannabe journalism based on lies and gossip. Today my team at Vetements is the strongest it’s ever been. My responsibility at Ventements have not changed or been compromised in any way since day one. Despite a four year old confusion I have always been the creative head of Vetements. My focus is, was and will be the product and the customer who wears it. Fashion is not about hype, nor useless gossip or opportunistic pseudo journalism, fashion is about clothes and so is Vetements.”
The HighSnobiety article written by Alex Leah alleged that Vetements “is on its way out, with sales slumping and customers uninterested.” The sources for the article were entirely anonymous and described as located in the United States, Europe and Asia and made up of retailers, a former employee and a former sales associate at a department store that carries the label.
This is the problem: while anonymous sourcing is understandable, the buying sources are the only ones that actually matter because the other two sources are no longer directly associated with the brand. In the case of the ex-employee, it’s neither stated why or when s/he left the role, leaving open the possibility s/he was let go and has an ax to grind.
Drilling down on buying sources, there appear to be three buyers: one for an Asian multi-brand store who states the brand is planned down; a buyer for a North American multi-brand store who says demand for Vetements has dropped off and a buyer for a “prominent” online chain (the article’s best source) who says the brand still sells but not as quickly as it used to with no detail on order outlook.
All told, the article is relying on three buying sources to draw some fairly large conclusions. And while rumors of Vetements demise don’t defy logic and it sounds like it actually is seeing a drop off in demand in some stores, in fairness to the label, the source base is thin gruel at best.
One of the issues is that it’s common for a brand to realize it’s first sales in a single-store boutique setting and then grow and expand to bigger retailers and leave behind the boutique sources its started out in. Very often, the starter boutique accounts that have been left behind will view a brand as dead while in reality it’s still doing just fine though at larger accounts. As such, it’s entirely possible the two buyers sourced for the article have a super fast customer who’ve indeed grown bored with Vetements (perhaps in part because it’s now more widely distributed) though sales overall could be better than ever.
As well, because Vetements is a private company, there’s no information on its sales break out globally and thus, it’s not clear what drove HighSnobiety to choose the source base it did. Do the sources reflect who the publication randomly was able to land for interviews or are they reflective of the channels and geographies the brand is sold in?
Still, despite the harsh criticism levied by Gvasalia, the fact that he felt the need to respond indicates that however flimsy the article may have been, it’s an indication HighSnobiety is too big and powerful to ignore.
As well, as the saying goes, the hit dog hollers so it’s possible HighSnobiety hit on some uncomfortable truths about the brand that Gvasalia felt compelled to respond to, an effort to cheer lead his own team as much as the brand.
And given the culture of trolling (which Gvasalia knows a thing or two about) and clout chasing, HighSnobiety will for certain be viewing the clapback as a feather in its cap. Sure, the article has its flaws, but no doubt the website’s traffic today is spiking and the pub is probably seeing an uptick in its following on all social media channels, in other words, a win.
On that note, Vetements absolutely needs to put Gvasiala’s statement on at t-shirt!