May 26, 2017 | By WGSN Insider
Mar 28, 2016
By Jian DeLeon
Davil Tran is a 22-year-old fashion enthusiast from Brooklyn who has been collecting designer clothes for a while. Armed with a near-encyclopedic knowledge base garnered from years on predominantly male fashion forums like SuperFuture, StyleZeitgeist, and StyleForum, Tran currently flexes his fashion muscles at aftermarket menswear e-commerce platform Grailed, a site where users can resell high-ticket items in their closet to a community of discerning consumers.
As a community moderator and customer service representative, Tran spends his time trolling the site for possible fake designer items, and also resolves community issues between sellers, buyers, and platforms like PayPal. More recently, Tran has received a lot of attention for his side project, Vetememes, a parody label he founded just two weeks ago. He only sells one item: a black, oversized raincoat emblazoned with “VETEMEMES” on the back, an obvious flip of Demna Gvasalia’s Vetements raincoat, which is long sold out.
Vetememes and the style set’s reaction to the subtle brilliance of the label (a Vetememes raincoat will only set you back $59, whereas the designer version that inspired it can demand up to $500 on sites like Grailed and eBay) reflects the blurring lines between gendered fashion, Internet hype culture, and upscale streetwear fiends. While Vetements is a womenswear brand on the outset, forward-thinking male fashion consumers have readily bought into the label, whether as believers of the hype or ardent disciples of Kanye West, who has been seen wearing the brand heavily.
Speaking of Mr. West, the ouroborosian cycle of bootleg fashion perpetuated itself outside the artist’s recent New York pop-up shop, where 17-year-old Instagram personality Asspizza began selling his own iterations of West’s The Life of Pablo merch outside, which was appreciated so much that it found its way on the racks next to the “legit” versions. WGSN spoke to Davil Tran about starting Vetememes, today’s upscale streetwear and fashion consumer, and why Vetements is a part of a small cadre of fashion labels that tends to hold its value on the grey online aftermarket.
Before you had Vetememes, you had a label called Fuccboi, which primarily sold jersey-inspired tees. How long ago did you start that?
Probably three to four years ago, it has a lot of Japanese-inspired terms like Senpai, Hentai, and I made some Gucci ones too. I started it as a joke, and it blew up from there. Once I started make them, people wanted custom requests, so I just made those for a while and left them up on the site, and whoever wanted it can get it. I used to get sales almost daily.
When did you start Vetememes?
Two weeks ago.
That’s quick. And right now you only make the raincoat?
I wanted to start with the raincoat because of how “meme” it is. You can’t look at any street style right now without seeing it. It’s pretty rare that a designer brand resells for [higher than the retail price] and Vetements is doing that right now.
Vetements is also rife with parody, its collections riff on DHL, Champion Sportswear, fake movie merch, the list goes on. Why is this so appealing?
Everyone wants to be recognized for what they’re wearing. Comme Des Garcons did that back in the day with their staff coat. People sought after it, it’s super rare, and they made a remake with Good Design Shop. They’re remaking 1984-era coats and they’re selling like hotcakes.
How has that desire for recognition affected consumers?
I think people try to seek more stuff out. Look at Gosha Rubchinskiy, his stuff is pretty expensive, and Vetements is higher than that. People are always looking for more. The streetwear guys are tired of a certain price range, and want something higher.
Hence, the $700 hoodie as status symbol?
Yeah, pretty much.
What do you think of Vetements’ first proper men’s capsule collection for DSM London?
It’s even more plain than the women’s stuff—which was at least unique in a sense. It’s all a parody.
How did you fund Vetememes?
I got money originally from Fuccboi that I used to explore and buy designer pieces. Whenever I buy something, I research it and make sure there’s a value to it, and that it’s worth it. That way if I don’t enjoy it that much, I can resell it. I’ve been doing that a lot—it’s fun.
What designers have you found hold their value on the aftermarket?
Raf Simons, Helmut Lang, and Comme des Garcons. These brands have a history.
But does it have to be from a specific era or collection to have a worth on the aftermarket? Sort of like originals versus prints in the art world?
It has to be designed by someone like Helmut Lang himself. Even the newer Raf Simons isn’t as valuable, except for the Sterling Ruby collaboration.
Do you think the popularity of Vetements reflects how high-fashion brands may be becoming as disposable as fast-fashion trends?
I don’t think so. I think it’s the limited-edition aspect. You definitely can’t just go to a store and buy a Vetements raincoat right now. I think the hype helps, and also gives it a status because of how high the aftermarket value gets—like Supreme. Without the hype, I don’t think Supreme would be where it was at.
What did you think of Asspizza selling bootleg Kanye West merch outside of the pop-up?
I think it’s just Asspizza. He’s doing his thing. He’s crazy. He has a status; he knows he can get away with it. I think he’s just f***ing with people.
Are you also trolling with Vetememes?
I think it’s just funny. When I thought of it, I knew it would work based on how hot Vetements is right now. I knew I could do it, so I did. I was kind of mad when I first got press about it because I didn’t have the samples I ordered yet. But when I saw Vogue post about it, it was awesome.
How easy is it to start a brand now? In a two-week timespan you set up an Instagram, a website, and a Big Cartel account to promote and sell Vetememes.
Yeah it’s super easy, but it’s more about knowing whether it’s gonna work. If it’s just generic streetwear prints on a t-shirt, it’s not gonna work. I’m not going to make Vetememes t-shirts—unless it’s based on something people are after. I was planning on maybe doing a “UPS” tee, but I looked on eBay and it’s been done. The raincoat? Not many people do that.
What’s the future of Vetememes?
Follow the ‘gram and find out.
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