I am sure you have been wondering how come Vetements’ cult reworked Levi’s are so expensive? Check out what their CEO, Guram Gvasalia’s, has to say about this:
Vetements, the cult brand, founded by Georgian brothers Demna and Guram Gvasalia in 2014, sold a DHL T-shirt for £185 in its first season, and ever since they have been shaking up the fashion industry with their casual approach to high fashion — sweatshirts and tracksuits and hoodies — that cost hundreds of pounds.
The brand is renowned for its collaborations: for spring/summer, it collaborated with 20 brands including Schott, Reebok, and Juicy Couture on limited edition items. Reebok socks can be picked up for £60, while a pair of velour sweatpants, with Juicy emblazoned in diamanté across the bottom, will set you back £795. In comparison, it seems outlandish that the brand are selling two pairs of old jeans for so much more.
Or is it? “The jeans usually cost €30, two pairs is €60,” explains Vetements’ CEO Guram Gvasalia. “We make them in Paris, and our tailor costs €20 an hour. It takes six hours to make the jeans, so that’s €180 euros, not including packaging or postage, which takes it up to around €200.” The traditional wholesale-to-retail margin that Gvasalia says “customers are usually unaware of” bumps up the price. For any designer to make any money, they need to offer their product to a wholesaler at two times cost price. “So around £400,” which, he says, ensures designers can pay their bills. But the retailer then needs to make a profit — usually 2.7-3 times the wholesale cost.
“Plus, we bought up all the jeans in France and the surrounding countries,” he says. And when there is none left, prices go up. “We have a team that goes all around sourcing and buying the jeans. Sometimes we get jeans with surprises, so it takes time to clean them up …”
The idea for the reworked Levi’s came about when designer Demna was unhappy with the quality of the samples being offered to the brand by other manufacturers. The duo had set about trying to create the perfect wardrobe for the modern woman. “We had the jacket, we had the sweatshirt. But the samples we were getting in for the jeans, Demna said they looked fake, that he wanted proper denim,” explains Gvasalia. “Demna was so frustrated, he took two pairs of his old Levi’s jeans, cut them up, and sewed them back together.”
The DHL T-shirt happened by similar means. “We were getting these super high DHL bills and I told everyone to stop sending DHL packages,” he says. “Demna said he felt like a DHL employee and that he was going to make a T-shirt for everyone because he felt like he was part of the company now.”
Their tongue-in-cheek approach to fashion has meant they have been profitable from the very beginning, with huge demand for their products that they deliberately produce smalls runs of. “If we put that much merchandise on the market, then next season no one will want the product,” says Gvasalia, recounting a dispute with a buyer who placed an order for 1,600 T-shirts. Gvasalia let them buy a mere 80.
The brand’s appeal is undeniable: they posted an image of a T-shirt with a link to a Canadian website that still had stock left and the site sold 1,500 T-shirts within an hour. Are they having fun? “It’s like being in Disneyland,” says Gvasalia.