Photography: Kathleen O’Neill
The VFILES show gets bigger and somehow even more hyped every year. But I said it last season, and I’ll say it again—despite all the bullshit and seemingly never-ending sea of Vetements hoodies, VFILES is, and always will be, good. This season, winners Junjie Yang, Christian Stone, Louis Pileggi and Chinese streetwear collective, INXX, came together to show a mix of high fashion moments with a focus on the avant-garde. From Yang’s neon track suits and the ’90s style rave wear at INXX, to Pileggi’s Pee-Wee Herman prints and Stone’s post-apocalyptic suits, all of the designers pushed their collections past the usual display of deconstructed suits and “innovative” takes on athleisure to deliver something actually special.
Antwerp-based Junjie Yang brought a futuristic hip-hop influence that was equal parts Fendi and VFILES Season 9 mentor (and Gucci inspiration/Fall campaign star), Dapper Dan. Fusing Asian culture with an urban aesthetic, the range landed somewhere between ’90s rap, anime and Grand Theft Auto V. Though not entirely revolutionary, the collection was undeniably cool—and in an effortless way—which, in a industry dominated by trend-driven fast fashion, in a world where the cultural currency is based on a curated sense of self, is in itself, radical.
On the other end of the fashion spectrum was Louis Pileggi and his romantic couture. Florals for spring? Groundbreaking. But really, the Central Saint Martins graduate put his own spin on deconstructed evening wear, with an exciting mix of fabrics and shape that left his clothes feeling both dreamy and depressed — but not in a bad way. In fact, the whole collection felt decidedly in contrast—flowing silks with chunky knits, floral appliques with watercolor prints and did we mention, Pee Wee Herman fabrics?
Chinese streetwear collective, INXX showed exactly that—streetwear with a Hong Kong edge. But that doesn’t mean it was boring. The collection actually moved beyond hoodies, denim and jumpsuits, to also deliver a line of assymetrical dresses and off-the-shoulder tops that felt more Comme des Garçons than they did Supreme. The styling was also super on-point, with models rocking multi-colored afros and slicked backs. Paired with oversized tees and windbreakers, the brand succeeded in making streetwear look high fashion—because as we’ve seen the last few seasons, just because it’s on a runway, doesn’t make it good.
But the show’s highlight was definitely Christian Stone and his post-apocalyptic “Mutant Artisanal.” Inspired by B-horror films, like Re-Animator, and outdated technology, the London-based designer and fellow CSM graduate handcrafts retro-futuristic couture. And when I think of some of fashion’s most iconic moments, I never really think about anything wearable. Rei Kawakubo, Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier—some of the industry’s best artists are the best because what they make is bizarre. It’s uncomfortable, it makes you feel uncomfortable and you can’t take your eyes off of it—and that’s exactly how I felt watching Christian Stone. The foil-covered jeans, the knit face masks and oversized parkas—all of it felt paranoid, fit more for a war than a runway. But that’s exactly where we are. As Trump continues stripping away the rights of minorities, women and the LGBTQ community, it can feel pretty shitty—and shallow—to be sitting front row. That is, until you see something like “Mutant Artisanal” S/S ’18—which reminds you of not just the healing power of art, but it’s ability to move people and incite real change.
That’s probably why I continue going to VFILES season after season, even though I hate the spectacle of lining up in your best, but most understated, designer clothes. Though I’d rather be home watching someone get murdered on Investigation Discovery, the possibility of seeing real art—the kind that makes a difference—is worth getting out of bed.