Photography: Lane Lang
No matter the weather, the line or the end of the world, if one thing’s for sure, it’s that the VFILES Fashion Week presentation will be crowded. Rappers, Instagram stars and desperate college students gather twice a year for their chance to be seen. The whole thing is a spectacle. The performances, the mentors, the sea of Vetements hoodies—every part of the VFILES show is built for hype. But unlike most bandwagon trends and Snapchatable moments, the designs are actually worth it.
This year, Dutch student Daniëlle Cathari, Australian designer, Streateas Carlucci, and recent Parsons graduate, Snow Xue Gao won the chance to present their Fall ’17 collections under the guidance of VFILES mentors, Tommy Hilfiger, Pat McGrath, Mel Ottenberg and Jerry Lorenzo. Following a two hour livestreamed event featuring performances by Cardi B, Lion Babe, Zara Larsson, Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert, and an opening act by Joey Purp, the selected designers debuted three standout collections, from Carlucci’s fetish cowboy garb to Cathari’s colorblocked tracksuits and impeccable suiting from Snow Xue Gao.
Her very first collection, Cathari’s designs were inspired by her internal struggle between reason and emotion. That contrast was present in the fabrics, but also in the juxtaposition of tailored coats and deconstructed tracksuits, as well as feminine-hued athletic-wear. Made from vintage Adidas tracksuits, Cathari’s were graphic mixes of color and shape under pieces of structured outerwear.
“I took inspiration mainly from menswear, and added some feminine elements, like ruffles,” said the designer. “I was also really inspired by the cozy fit of a tracksuit. My collection was like, ‘I have to go to the supermarket, but I don’t want to dress badly.'”
For Strateas Carlucci, inspiration came from the opposite direction, in the form of fetish wear and motocross, through the lens of an Australian cowboy. The result was a collection filled with tailored menswear, finished with subversive embellishments. Graphic prints and bright yellows dominated the range, as t-shirts with playful slogans like “Thirtsy,” lent a streetwear element to the more polished suits.
On the other side of the collection, there were motocross-style leather jackets and pants, as well as a set of girly turtlenecks and tops. All the men wore different boots, showcasing the Western influence that, alongside more feminine pieces, created a really strong sense of duality.
“We do men’s and women’s, but the whole idea is about opposition,” said Carlucci. “As a designer, you’ve got a responsibility to think sustainably, but also to think outside the square and perpetually create something new every season.”
Snow Xue Gao
Also focused on suiting, for her first collection outside of Parsons, Snow Xue Gao delivered a mix of loose, Asian-influenced blouses and heavy, structured tailoring—the variation between soft, draping silk and stiff houndstooth provided a sharp take on hard and soft. Though focused heavily on suiting, the collection also showcased Gao’s skill in combining prints and fabrics, as well as her ability to maintain effortlessness and ease in pieces that aren’t at all flowy or feminine.
“My woman is smart and sexy, but always independent,” she said. “She can dress like a man, but she’s always going to do it in an elegant way.”
That marriage of independence and elegance is an unmistakable part of the brand’s DNA, with each design working as a badge of strength for the wearer.
But aside from a focus on suiting, Gao, Cathari and Carlucci, all have a lot in common. The three presenting designers explore gender and sexuality through their clothes, and they all share a desire to push the industry forward. As a whole, even after the theatrics, VFILES remains the force that it is because of the designers it launches. The presentations might have become more and more extravagant, but the crux of what the brand stands for always persists because of the talent they discover, and the platform they provide. Without VFILES, Fashion Week would still be for the same 10 designers with the same 12 derivative designs, and without Daniëlle Cathari, Strateas Carlucci and Snow Xue Gao, this Fashion Week would’ve been much more boring.
View our behind-the-scenes photos of the VFILES FW ’17 presentation, above.