Jan 24, 2017
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Down-and-out chic makes the Paris haute couture catwalk

Jan 24, 2017

Paris fashion can't get enough of its new enfant terrible Demna Gvasalia, whose rebel Vetements label has been ridiculing its conventions for the last two years.

But the trendsetting Georgian -- who now also designs for Balenciaga -- outdid himself at a haute couture show on Tuesday by presenting a homeless man with a coat fastened with a tie.

Vetements Haute Couture spring/summer 2017, ©ALAIN JOCARD / AFP

His sleeping bag also bore a Vetements logo.

Couture clothes -- which are handmade to measure -- are eye-wateringly expensive, the preserve of the richest people on the planet.

To twist the knife, he put his "Vagabond", as Gvasalia called him, in a raggy-necked blue pullover with the EU flag on the front.

The post-Brexit down-and-out Europe look was one of a parade of Paris stereotypes Gvasalia -- tongue very much in cheek -- sent down the escalators of the Pompidou Centre art gallery.

This was the "City of Light" in all its grandeur and naffness.

Down the runway came the ferociously snooty fur-coated upper class matron, black bouncer, German tourist in see-through rain mack and shorts with brown socks and trainers, the office worker in ill-matched suit and anorak as well as the Filipina nanny in her Sunday best knock-off Chanel suit.

The 35-year-old appeared to be holding an ironic mirror up to his adopted home, the world's fashion capital, and to himself -- selling the clothes of the poor to the rich.

- Tongue in cheek -

Gvasalia, who fled his then war-torn homeland as a child for Germany, said he gets his inspiration from riding the metro through one of the poorest and most ethnically diverse parts of Paris.

He also skewered the hipster "Parisienne" in her trench and coat and scooter helmet gentrifying those neighbourhoods, contrasting her with working class "Chav" twins in reworked shellsuits -- playing on the age-old prejudices against the poor.

There were a few laugh out loud moments, like the ageing Johnny Hallyday-like Parisian cowboy with "Vetements" stamped across the gusset of his jeans.

Or the German tourist's green sweatshirt emblazoned with the title of the schlager pop song "I am so lucky to come from Osnabruck".

But there were also touching moments, the disoriented "Granny" being elbowed out of the away on the catwalk by the other urban tribes, the "Stoner", the "Secretary", the "Emo" and "Miss Webcam".

Haute couture shows often traditionally finish with a wedding dress. And Gvasalia, ever the provocateur, could not resist the temptation.

His bride was a Generation Z version of "Great Expectations" spinster Miss Havisham, a ball of white tulle who looked like she had just been jilted at the altar.

- 'Gorilla sleeves' -

Vetements, the uber cool collective Gvasalia leads, has always flirted at the edge of taste, with his Frankenstein suits and Stasi officer post-Soviet chic.

And purists find it hard to swallow that someone who often recuts and reworks existing clothes should be allowed a couture show.

But Gvasalia's every innovation -- appropriating logos to trailing "gorilla sleeves", and pushing Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons' oversized look to the limit -- is followed avidly and more often than not copied.

The brand's rising status was confirmed when Korean K-pop rapper G-Dragon -- who had earlier paid homage to Karl Lagerfeld at his Chanel show -- rushed back to his hotel to change into a Vetements hoodie so he could pay tribute to Gvasalia.

The sense of a changing of the guard was palpable.

Vetements' big new thing this time is overlong men's belts that trail down to the toes. Watch out for versions of them catching in car and metro doors across the world in the coming months.

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