Meet Fashion’s Tech-Centric Underground:
VFiles Runway Fall/Winter 2016
The most coveted ticket on day 1 at NYC’s FW 2016 fashion week was to VFiles, where the avant-garde incubator once again presented a veritable Galápagos Islands of fashion, music, tech and pop culture. Held at Spring Studios in TriBeca, it was an alchemical cyclotron, teeming with expressionistic chaos and fashion’s it-est collections, fashionistas and freaks, hands down. First up, Anton Belinskiy.
For an amazing take on post-Soviet streetwear, look no further than Kiev’s coolest avant-gardian, Anton Belinskiy. This brilliantly visual, powerfully political designer conjures scenes of the Maidan (the square in downtown Kiev where the protests unfolded and much blood was spilt in 2013), explores post-Soviet angst, utopias, dystopias, and his insane artistic id; all collapsed into an incredible sartorial statement about realism, idealism and aesthetic values. Titiled ‘Utopia’, the pieces showcased were scintillating and symbolic—symbols that seem to uncover the tracks of post-Yanukovych Ukraine to things radical, exigent and alluring. Highlights included colossal-sized, canary-yellow parkas with mini-parka-shaped hoodies, punk pastel coats and slick athletic gear. Consciousness was raised; energy was elevated; and the crowd went bananas.
Next up was Sophie Hardeman, who brought out deconstructed and surreal get-ups derived of denim and durable cottons. The Dutch designer turns conventional cloth into awesome, original, and utterly surreal unisex wears. She applies ‘grunge’ and ‘hybrid’ techniques like deconstruction, dynamic draping and raw finishes to make ‘non-conformist’ clothes, punk patchworks and outré shapes and structures. Think vintage Margiela collides with Comme des Garçons, Leigh Bowery, and total lunacy. Her oversized denim doohickey—a look that could have been pulled out of a Dada performance in Zurich’s Cabaret Voltaire—got the lion’s share of love and laughter. Props!
Kim Shui is leading fashion into some fantastically promising places. With a focus on outerwear, she turns abstraction and artisanship into sartorial novelties that are at once warm and fuzzy, alchemical and architectonic. Gushing with punk-y pizzaz, kinetic colors, leathers and bucketloads of charm, her fun, frothy, furry fashion made my heart fibrillate and the VFiles audience go gaga. Knockout looks included Kandinsky-inspired snakeskin jackets, technicolored tops with sequins and purple plaid jackets.
The Berlin-based fashion label Ottolinger, a collab between Christa Bösch and Cosima Gadient, delivered killer contorted, laced-together trousers, tattered tops and helixed hand-knits. The duo turned a variety of gnarly, enigmatic and organic materials into a convincing varnacular of sartorial form and artisanal awesomeness. They combined conceptualism, coolness, craft and kitsch with a gender-bending twist and a welder’s wit. The crowd went bonkers for their seared shirts and scorched jackets—seemingly the result of a proprietary blowtorch technique they picked up in Berlin.
VFiles is not your typical fashion vehicle. The digital fashion portal excels at exhibiting underground talent, bleeding edge technology and turning material into something talismanic and weird. Julie Ann Quay, the platform’s founder and chief creative officer, knows how to entrance her audience. Enter Neuro Couture. Designed by Nayana Malhotra, this is brain-boggling futuristic fashion—clothing embedded with an electroencephalogram device that detects electrical activity in your brain using incy wincy electrodes. It then converts the body’s electrical excitation into signals, rendering them into GIF graphics and distributes them throughout the garment via LEDs. “You end up wearing what you’re feeling,” said the designer backstage. “It’s wearable tech that is ambient and intuitive.” Mind blown!
Tech-wise, VFiles rules the roost! The platform has even added a wearable tech line in collaboration with XO. Pop princess Sophie Beem debuted the line last night during the show. It was an all-out outpouring of sartorial juices, technology, amazing music and artistic oomph!