There’s an energy outside any VFiles production unlike anything else during NYFW—downtown kids crowding outside the entrance, dressed in their most relevant looks, and fighting desperately to get inside without, of course, looking desperate at all. It’s a unique challenge, really, and an unusual scene to watch unfold every season.
Even backstage, this same excitement overwhelms VFiles’ pre-show experience, with this September inevitably heightened by Naomi Campbell’s involvement as a designer mentor. Though she was M.I.A. from this week’s presentation—major side eye to that—Naomi’s stamp offers proof that VFiles is slowly becoming a more reputable platform among fashion’s bigger players. (Or maybe she just has a new publicist).
When I spoke with founder Julie Anne Quay a year ago, being “taken seriously” by high fashion was one of her biggest goals in developing VFiles, but even with Naomi’s loose association, last night’s event still edged closer to hype-driven Internet culture with its heavy Mountain Dew branding, a swarm of Instagram’s buzzy “elite” and a seasonal formula that often feels too concerned with virality.
However, when you strip away the presentation’s self-aware front row, A-Trak DJ set and overbearing online presence, the designer lineup, as always, offered a strong sampling of today’s most promising newcomers. After all, VFiles helped to launch Di$count Univer$e, now globally recognized, as well as BULLETT favorites, like Namilia and Gauntlett Cheng—then Moses Gauntlett Cheng.
VFiles x Mountain Dew
This season’s designer lineup seemed to dance entirely around Italy’s Alessandro Trincone—VFiles’ golden child—mostly because the collection he presented was worn by rapper Young Thug in his Internet-breaking Jeffrey album artwork. When I met one-on-one with Trincone backstage after the show, he said he was “equally surprised” as the outside world when he heard his work was chosen to be worn by Young Thug. “We come from such different worlds,” he mused, before quickly dashing out the exit door, desperately in need of a cigarette—us too after VFiles’ madness. On the runway, Trincone’s collection was beautifully dramatic, and absolutely deserving of its hype—a poetic visualization of Trincone’s experience with oppression and self-realization.
Beyond Trincone, VFiles’ winning designers provided a global perspective on fashion, from South Korea’s Song Seoyoon to Mexico’s Sanchez-Kane, Antwerp’s Rushemy Botter to Hong Kong’s Ground Zero. Within this international sampling, 30-year-old Botter was one of the stronger players, armed with a collection that Walter Van Beirendonck oversaw during the designer’s time studying at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Though he defines himself as a “menswear” designer, there’s still elegant undertones of femininity strung throughout his work. This collection in particular tackled contemporary topics like terrorism, race and war with patches reading statements like, “Enemy of Corruption.”
Seoyoon’s work was nice, too—a playful examination of the garment-making process, with her actual designs covered by stylized plastic sheets to purposefully distract viewers from seeing the final garment. Sanchez-Kane distilled his “emotional chaos” through the lens of his Mexican heritage, with patterned pillow-shaped headpieces and BDSM-imbued garments, while Ground Zero—a brand that’s been independently showing during NYFW for several seasons, now—made a strong case for ultra-kawaii motocross looks.
After being aggressively stimulated by such diverse, provocative lineups, VFiles closed its prolonged production with a performance by “WHAT” rapper Playboi Carti; though the rising artist’s delivery was undeniably energetic, this was another move that ultimately distracted from the fashion and pushed VFiles’ spectacle closer to hype fashion, not high fashion. Based on what we’ve learned from this season’s Yeezy blunder, the lifespan of “hype” isn’t too long—especially when your audience is mostly Internet-based, like VFiles’, with an attention span that gets slimmer by the day.
So if VFiles’ mission is generating explosive 24-hour social media buzz, it’s winning. But if it’d like to seriously continue honing Quay’s quest to dominate the upper echelons of fashion, which it absolutely could, perhaps it’s time to focus more on the winning designers and crowd-sourced production team, rather than on all the noise that distracts from what’s genuinely fresh and exciting.