Before early 2016, DHL and fashion’s dalliance existed solely in the form of them delivering (or ‘misplacing in the central hub’) your latest Palace shirt. But then Vetements unveiled a simple yellow tee with the distinctive delivery firm’s logo splashed on the front, and everyone and your Nan decided to fork out £185 for one. The fact was, you could get an almost identical official tee from DHL’s website for £4.50; but a wave of Paris Fashion Week hysteria meant people were paying big bucks to rep the mundane logo of a mundane courier.
Yet, as much as it may be easy to bash, there is something cool about the concept. Although this was made by a designer, multinational corporations have been making pretty unique items of clothing for promo purposes since the 80s. We’ve had some jazzy ones on the site in recent weeks; Camel Cigarettes promo shirts, Budweiser caps, Coca-Cola sweatshirts. Back in the day, these were churned-out free with items made by the corresponding brand, trying to reify consumers into walking advertisements. They’re just as fun these days, but they sure ain’t free.
Detractors will lament that spending several notes on a National Geographic quarter-zip, or a BMW tee, is corporatism gone full-circle, a wet-dream of capitalists and businesses. But they’re missing the biting irony and playfulness of the whole thing. Wearing a ‘I Took the Pepsi Challenge!’ promo shirt does not mean you want Pepsi to rule the world, or that you even want a fucking Pepsi. It’s taking the piss, appropriating brands that assault all the sensory organs they can get their mitts on by reclaiming and reshaping them as a fashion piece. Instead of them advertising to you, you’re becoming the advert yourself, a badass subversion akin to turning up to a job interview and asking all the questions. It’s not the firms that become fashionable – let’s face it, DHL vans might as well be towed to the nearest Fashion Police Station – but it’s the garms themselves that are ace. Maybe best to avoid catwalk copies for hundreds of quid and get the originals though, eh.
Words by Kyle MacNeill – TVC in-house blogger