Demna Gvasalia did not come to play with his Instagram response to Highsnobiety’s March 29 article, “2 Years After They Broke the Internet, It Looks Like Nobody is Buying Vetements.” It’s a bold claim, to be sure, and one that immediately (and for obvious reasons) riled the people at Vetements and the label’s buyers.
In a statement sent to WWD, Vetements Chief Executive Officer Guram Gvasalia wrote, “It is sad to see the state of journalism today. In the era of click-baits, using the name of our company in the article is a click-bait itself, and even more so when it’s mentioned in a negative headline. To the disappointment of all the haters, we would like to declare that Vetements is in the strongest creative and financial state it has ever been. We are definitely not going out of business and the speculations about our sales figures are not only false and defamatory in its nature, but also simply ridiculous.”
He continued to call out Highsnobiety. “Sadly, some journalists today are more concerned with writing fake news and reposting shocking headlines rather than checking facts to show the full picture.” While I agree that there is a serious lack of fact-checking that happens at too many media outlets today, does Guram Gvasalia’s claim that Highsnobiety’s story is “fake news” hold up? Well, it’s hard to tell.
In writer Alec Leach’s story, a variety of sources in the “American, European and Asian markets—buyers from retailers stocking the brand, a former Vetements employee and a sales associate from a luxury department store” were spoken to, all of whom asked to remain anonymous. It’s understandable that these people would ask to remain anonymous for fear of professional retaliation. That’s not necessarily a knock against Highsnobiety’s reporting. The reporter’s sources haven’t been debunked, but they also haven’t been confirmed yet either — nor has it been confirmed if the reporter reached out to Vetements for comment before publishing.
In a statement to WWD, Highsnobiety said, “Vetements isn’t immune to the struggles faced by modern independent labels, but what we’re analyzing is their ability to sustain marketing hype and relevance to our young, trend-conscious audience as it grows. While it’s impossible to quantify street cred, we have noticed a sharp decline in Vetements in our global street style coverage, and the buyers we spoke to, many of whom work at smaller, independent retailers, often rely on a brand’s strength to help curate their offer, and cater especially to the type of discerning consumer we speak to.”
When the story was posted, a photo of Tiffany Hsu, fashion buying director at MyTheresa, wearing Vetements was used as the headline image. Hsu responded with an angry Instagram story. “Dear @highsnobiety I am still buying @vetements_official please don’t use my face for an article that i didn’t even interview for !!!” she said. Other buyers expressed that their Vetements sales are doing just fine, thank you.
Jeffrey Kalinsky, owner of Jeffrey New York, said that he has been selling a lot of the Vetements products at full price. “Sell-throughs at full price is what determines if you go forward with a brand, and we’ve been very happy with how it’s been selling,” Kalinksy told WWD.
While this doesn’t necessarily mean that Highsnobiety’s story is “fake news”, clearly it ruffled a lot of feathers. It’s an important lesson to reporters and publications to bolster claims with sources from all sides whenever possible and to make sure there’s clear delineation between hypothetical opinion and fact. But either way, there was undeniably some truth to Highsnobiety’s story. Quartz reporter Marc Bain, referenced in the piece, tweeted in response to Demna Gvasalia’s claim that “If you go into a shop and you see something on sale, it means it’s been overproduced.”
Bain tweeted, “In this case going on sale could be a result of the brand asking more than customers are willing to pay. Supply & demand might better align if a cotton t-shirt hoodie weren’t $890 at full retail. Just a thought.”
In this case going on sale could be a result of the brand asking more than customers are willing to pay. Supply & demand might better align if a cotton t-shirt hoodie weren't $890 at full retail. Just a thought.
— Marc Bain (@marcbain_) February 9, 2018