The French luxury designer brand Vetements is under fire for the Fall 2021 Menswear collection, which featured Hong Kong protest inspired looks.
Vetements was founded by brothers Demna and Guram Gvasalia–the former being the current creative director of Balenciaga whilst the latter remains director for Vetements. The label is known for its ‘tongue-in-cheek’ designs, which has now landed them in hot water.
The latest Fall 2021 Menswear collection has a strong anarchist, counter-culture thread running throughout. Models don balaclavas, anarchy symbols and slogan t-shirts with phrases like ‘Think While It’s Still Legal.’
Most notably however, are four knitwear looks that are splattered with a blue paint effect. Guram Gvasalia has cited the 2019 Hong Kong protests as an inspiration–specifically how Hong Kong police sprayed protestors with blue dye for later identification and persecution.
Fashion, culture and politics undoubtedly overlap, and several designers have created effective zeitgeist-y collections before. However, these looks from Vetements definitely lack nuance or depth, which just makes it seem tasteless. The overall styling of the collection and its target demographic makes it a bit ridiculous when realising these protest pieces are to be worn by rich youths who remain untouched by true political upset. This situation does not feel too dissimilar to when Instagrammers and influencers attended George Floyd protests for the photo opportunity and because it’s just the ‘cool thing to do.’
Many online articles and comments from Western social media are hyper-focused on its apparent capitalisation of people’s struggles but comments from Hong Kongers on Vetements’ Instagram generally seem to be in favour of it.
It’s a grey area because this controversy has definitely raised awareness to the issue again and reinvigorated the cause. But does the old adage of ‘any publicity is good publicity’ still ring true?
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