The day before the VFiles show, which is emerging as a solid platform for fresh talent, Italo Zucchelli was in an especially upbeat mood. This is the third season out of four that the design director of Calvin Klein menswear has acted as mentor for the group of hopefuls, first winnowed down by VFiles’ online community. “I can see that it’s very, very exciting for the designers,” he enthused. “They’re having so much fun. I’m having fun, too. I’m even Instagramming.” Would he consider hiring one of the young’uns at Calvin Klein men’s? “If I see that there is an aesthetic link, absolutely, yes!” How’s that for motivation?
The night of the show, the various tribes and factions under the VFiles umbrella came together in fine form, perhaps owing to the venue, Lincoln Center, and the sense of calm propriety it emanates. An understated Kesha and entourage quietly took their seats, Lea DeLaria (Orange Is the New Black) provided comic relief in hushed tones for her crew, and Brooklyn-based music producer A-Trak assumed the deejay booth. A preemptive moment of excitement erupted as some impromptu break-dancing broke out in the front row, but it was shushed by fellow onlookers as the lights went up and the show began.
Then a smattering of bright young misfits, dressed in VFiles’ sporty in-house line (available on its website after the show), zipped around the runway on scooters, their initial pouts soon giving way to ruddy-faced grins. They were followed by the four mini-collections. First up was Julia Seemann, who, now based in Zurich, formerly interned with Vivienne Westwood in London. That her models struggled in their high heels only added to the endearing charm of her futuristic hippie chicks, with their full denim skirts and floppy-hats-cum-visors.
Next, Andrea Jiapei Li, a native of Beijing and a recent Parsons graduate, fused loose garments recalling traditional Chinese dress with extreme geometric shapes, and soft cotton jersey with hard vinyl, because, she said, “I wanted to give emotion to fabric.” The only men’s designer, Ximon Lee, another Parsons grad, said he was inspired by the Oscar-nominated Polish documentary Children of the Leningradsky, about a post-Soviet band of orphaned street kids who call Moscow’s railway stations home. His models, however, looked more ennobled than the synopsis would suggest, projecting strength and fortitude in great abstracted, oversize, ombré-dyed pieces and carrying foam mats as accessories.
Finally, it was time for Di$count Univer$e, an Australian label popular among musicians. It lived up to its customized spelling with a cheeky, flashy, spangle-y assortment of slinky sequin dresses and biker jackets worthy of whatever spectacle the wearer might have in mind—even if it’s just trotting around a fluffy white poodle, the kind that drolly closed the collection. Afterward, VFiles’ founder Julie-Anne Quay was as chipper as Italo Zucchelli had been the day before. “The kids are so brave,” she raved. “They’re getting smarter and more confident. They’re really shaking things up. I’m so proud of them.” The kids, it would seem, are more than all right.