The scene at the second-ever VFILES MADE FASHION show was, well, a scene. If you're not familiar with VFILES, then you've obviously been living under a rock since the fashion entertainment platform was launched in September 2012 by Julie Anne Quay, who is the former executive editor of V magazine. Quay describes the site as a movement away from "keeping all your favourite things in a box under your bed and digitizing that experience to let everyone come together and communicate in one space.” The result is a type of fashion media vault. As for the VFILES MADE FASHION, it is the hot young brand's global user-generated fashion show - the first of its kind. ASSK, Melitta Baumeister, and Hyein Seo, the three emerging design brands that showed their collections in the VFILES show were crowd-sourced and chosen by users of the VFILES digital media platform. MTV Style summarized the runway show pretty well, saying that it ran "the spectrum from club kid to inexplicably avant-garde." Style.com called their September 2013 debut show "a raucous runway rave." Interestingly, these sentiments also describes the crowd pretty accurately, as well.
The VFILES MADE FASHION 2 show was staged at Eyebeam Studios the night before the official launch of New York Fashion Week. It was a bit of an unconventional (read: cool) one on the NYFW schedule, which also consists of Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Prabal Gurung, and Altuzarra, and that is likely what made it one of the week's hottest tickets. Unlike many of the other shows during NYFW, there were not many empty seats ... at all. The space was dark, much as it is for every other show staged at Eyebeam. The music, by NYC-based DJ Mess Kid, however, was much, much louder. Eclectic blogger Susie Bubble was seated with VFILES model Lucas Sabat. RJ King, who appears in VFILES web series, Model Files, was there, as were the other VFILES regulars: Preston Chaunsumlit, Lisa TV, Casey Ellison (hey, Case-Case), Danielle (pictured below), and CJ Kut. Also in attendance: Pyrex creator (and Kanye West pal) Virgil Abloh, Heron Preston, DJ Alex Merrell, VFILES' 12-year old intern, Paper Magazine's Mickey Boardman, and rapper Cam'ron, who hosted the after-party. I was seated between Alex Frank, the editor of Fader (who informed me that he was re-seated as one of "Kanye's friends" was in his seat) and an exec. from Hood By Air.
Speaking of Hood By Air, that was apparently a go-to outfit choice for a good portion of the show-goers. There was a lot of HBA and Been Trill logo-covered clothing. There were also quite a lot of chola-style braids, latex skirts and dresses, crop tops, gothic-like choker necklaces, and just overly-loud ensembles. Essentially, there were a lot of people just wearing shit you wouldn't otherwise see altogether at a legitimate fashion show. WWD reviewed the collections, as did Style.com. If that's not some form of legitimacy, I don't know what is.
With a few sartorial exceptions (yes, I'm referring to you, sir, who was wearing a dress, Renaissance-era inspired overcoat and happily posing for a million pictures), it all felt very authentic. Interestingly, while most fashion week people who are this styled and/or over-the-top (think: street style stars made by Scott Schuman) are rather off-putting and obvious, this whole scene worked, and it put the VFILES "fam" notion into perspective for me.
But what about others? The aforementioned Alex Frank, who works at Fader, the self-described "definitive voice of emerging music and the lifestyle that surrounds it", shed some light on why he thinks the show, and VFILES, in general, works. He told me: "VFILES is just fun: there's always a million fun 20 year olds in New York, but VFILES just pulled them all together and gave them runway shows and YouTube channels. Retail in New York can be so buttoned up or artsy and serious, but VFILES is not snobby — they just like stuff. And I think that's why people like them."
And it makes sense. What the VFILES show made more apparent than ever before (to me, at least) is that they are selling, or better yet, they are cultivating a movement. Quay and her team are championing the youth, one HBA t-shirt, Steven Tai sweatshirt and limited edition see-through Kelly bag (which I am still so pissed I didn't buy) at a time. They have essentially taken Tumblr culture and made it into an actual community, and it is the core of VFILES existence. That community congregates on the VFILES Twitter account (all 21.5k of them), on the VFILES instagram (there's 35k of them) and they must be the 1 million+ people that visit the VFILES site every month. In early 2013, over 60 percent of the site’s content was generated by the community.
This isn't a novel concept; sites driven by user-created content, such as Pinterest, already exist. What is different here is that the VFILES online platform is a mix of professionally-edited content and community-driven curation. According to Quay, “Our audience [which consists of everyone from A$AP Rocky and model Karlie Kloss to regular kids] participates loudly in the dialogue of fashion." Thus, the strong community-vibe that I got from the brand's recent runway show makes perfect sense. So much of what VFILES is based on is derived from that community, that scene and from bringing the offline and online worlds together.
In an attempt to gain a greater perspective on the VFILES appeal, I asked around. Frank affirmed my youth-focused sentiment, saying: "I just think the fact that VFILES has 13-year old mega-fans says it all: every era in New York needs that space that epitomizes everything kids are about at that moment, and VFILES is it. I mean, just like this is the first generation coming up that doesn't even remember a time before Facebook, VFILES is the first store that just never existed without social networking in a really natural way——like, why shouldn't a brand tweet randomly at 2AM about Drake? Everyone else is."
I also turned to the designers that took part in show to see why they chose to make their debut with VFILES. Recent Parsons MFA grad., Melitta Baumeister, who showed impressive collection of sculptural black and white silicone looks, says she was drawn to the VFILES MADE FASHION program after following VFILES online. She says: "I wanted to be part of the VFILES Show because they are making something happen. I think the VFILES community is one of the most contemporary fashion platforms where visual art in every sense can be shared."
Agatha Kowalewski and Sarah Schofield, the Australian-born design duo behind Paris-based brand ASSK, said they were really excited to be part of the show. Of the VFILES brand, they told me: "We believe the VFILES site and store has made a big change to the traditional fashion industry. They really understand the direction and future of the industry, how people want to buy and connect. The era of faceless white mega boutique filled with generic clothes and impersonal sales assistants is over! Also, the fact VFILES is both in business as a retailer, and is also supporting young talent is a rare and generous thing in fashion."
Antwerp-based Hyein Seo, a Masters student at the famed Royal Academy of Fine Arts, says that because she's living in Antwerp, she wasn't actually up on VFILES before being approach by a VFILES editor about being part of the show. She asked her all of her American friends about it and "Everybody told me ‘Vfiles is super cool!’" She says: "I didn’t expect that VFILES and the show have such power and influence. It is still feels surreal all the things happening and coming to me now." As for what she thinks of VFILES now: "It's Super Cool and Fun!!"
While some of the designs that hit the runway during the VFILES show may not have been the most polished/commercial or the most wearable, I have no doubt that they will sell out on the VFILES site because they actually worked in context. And if we are being perfectly honest, I have been waiting pretty eagerly for the Melitta Baumeister wares to hit the VFILES site. I've also been listening to the VFILES x Mess Kid mix pretty regularly. I am planning to follow the careers of the three design brands that showed. But most of all, I am really looking forward to the VFILES MADE FASHION 3 show in September. Stay tuned ...