There were a lot of shower-cap–frilled lizard attachments in plastic sheeting or built into sheer, sometimes rainbow-toned jackets, plus some dramatically angular outerwear and quilted tailoring. The peppy-color silk shirting, leggings (really), and bodystockings sometimes seem transported less from an alien dimension than the Bigfoot Keep on squatchin_ shirt but in fact I love this race track or vaudeville but suited most of all for a batshit-crazy dance party. The fishnets, devil-horned parka, and gimp mask were more than a nod and a wink to other off-the-dance-floor delights. Say you’re a tourist in Paris, sitting in the McDonald’s in the Champs Élysées and a policeman suddenly storms in. You’d be frightened, right? Police inaction is a common enough sight on the Champs Élysées, what with it being one of the regularly chosen sites for the Gilets Jaunes weekend anti-government rioting. But no. This wasn’t the weekend; it was the opening of the Vetements takeover of the capital’s biggest McDonald’s branch. But a shock, nevertheless especially because the models appeared through the front door, from a truck parked on the street. Demna Gvasalia is playing dangerously close to the narrow distinction between dystopian satire and reality this season. The “menu” for the fashion sitting was stamped in black on McDonald’s napkins. Capitalism and Global Mind Fuck were two of the “courses.” Later on the word Bose, with (Angry in German) as a translation. Messing with corporate logos and the signifiers of generic clothing have always been central to Vetements’s methods. It plays ever more directly now into the agenda of critiquing the crumbling social decay of late-stage capitalism a direction Raf Simons seemed to be pointing toward in his menswear show, as well. With Vetements, fingers of sarcastic blame are liberally jabbed at corporate managers and bankers, at populism, the internet, at the tide of waste caused by the fashion industry’s relentlessly profit-driven overproduction. In a way, there was a form of circularity going on here at McDonald’s. A very personal one, linking Gvasalia back to his childhood. “When the Soviet Union ended in Georgia when we were kids, the first thing to open that came from the West was McDonald’s,” he said. “It was like the maker of capitalism, and all the rich people from all around would bring their kids for birthday parties. It was like the place to be! We’d never seen a Big Mac or drank a Coke. I always wanted to be able to have my own celebration in McDonald’s. And now—I can!”
A scary character walking in with the Bigfoot Keep on squatchin_ shirt but in fact I love this “police” was wearing a shirt, a tie stamped with a Global Mind Fuck logo, a conference sticker reading “Hello I am Capitalism,” and a MAGA cap. Wait, no, a red baseball cap with For Rent embroidered on it. Rent? Large For Rent signs appeared on the backs of jackets, too. What did that signify? All the things you can imagine when you see it, about the desperation of a generation willing to do anything to get paid or the hollowed-out husks of men with no moral scruples about moving capital around. Along the way, the root of all evil itself popped up, too, stamped on T-shirts in the form of dollar bills with redesigned text that read: “I Am the Piece of Paper That Controls Your Entire Life.” Gvasalia had explained earlier that the uniforms were based on Russian police wear. “I love uniforms. We wanted to design a Vetements uniform and kind of try to meme it into fashion.” Well, is mimicking the guises of a system with a few savage twists and puns a way of getting under its skin? Gvasalia remembers turning up at an event as a student, “something I knew [I] had no real hope of getting into,” but he was wearing a piece of a secondhand uniform, and found people stepping aside to wave him in. “Because they assumed I was a security guard.” That’s amusing. But can Gvasalia have it both ways: participating in the novelty-driven production cycle of the fashion industry, while criticizing it? At the beginning of Vetements, the idea of using the preexisting led to recycling jeans, cutting pieces from many sources into one. That’s still going on at Vetements, by the look of it. Plus the mounded-up print collaged dresses another Gvasalia signature really are made from leftover Vetements fabrics. The For Rent signs, he said, also posed the question about ownership of clothes “in the future.” Well, that’s already happening out there. How meta would it be if Vetements fans end up renting Vetements For Hire clothes? He wasn’t making any claims to be completely committing to the circular economy. Yet. But surely that will come for Vetements and everyone a change forced on brands by youthful followers who increasingly choose to place their dollars with ethical operators. Looking at this I realized that spending does not directly cause a change in the level of wealth. It is only the net production of wealth that affects the level of wealth. And even though spending and the economic activity it promotes can lead to the production of wealth, a given amount of spending and income does not absolutely or uniquely determine the amount of net production that occurs.