Last night in Barclay’s Center, the arena where the New York Islanders play, there were typical hallmarks of sports game excess, such as a Kiss Cam projected on a panoramic jumbotron and a soft drink sponsor. (Sprite.)
Except this wasn’t a Nets or Islanders game; it was the VFiles spring 2019 runway show. Founded by former V Magazine executive editor Julie Anne Quay in 2012, VFiles is a fashion retailer (which sells online and in a SoHo store), pop culture site, and social media network most prominently seen on Instagram.
While VFiles used its show to debut its own ready-to-wear line developed by Helmut Lang designer Paul Cupo, most of the night was dedicated to promoting the four "VFiles Season 10 Winners." These up-and-comers won a competition judged by the likes of Quay, InStyle editor-in-chief Laura Brown, and Harlem-based designer Dapper Dan.
The brand has earned a plucky reputation for putting on events that breathe new life into New York Fashion Week, a 75 year-old institution that has become synonymous with exclusivity.
Last year’s event, also held at Barclay’s, featured the rapper Offset driving a yellow Lamborghini on the runway, blunt in hand.
It’s an image that’s hard to top, but VFiles was up to the challenge. The brand came back in a blaze of glory (and yes, more pot smoke), by inviting the public to the event. As WWD reported, free tickets were available made available to fans on Eventbrite one week prior to the show.
It was not just a populist move, but a savvy business decision, too — VFiles boasts the kind of young demographic most brands pine for. By Canadian outlet Fashion's estimate in 2015, 70 percent of the site's visitors were under 24 — and around 3,000 of them took advantage of the comp tickets.
The crowd came en masse wearing too-cool-for-school ‘fits that ranged from the brand’s ubiquitous printed sports bras (and not much else) to bedazzled leather chaps, and many, many low-rise jeans in between.
Unlike other shows, gawking at (cult) famous attendees such as Amanda Lepore and was encouraged, through a roving "Celeb Cam" that announced their arrivals.
The entire show was DJ’d by A-Trak, who owns the record label Fool’s Gold and has worked with Kanye West, Kid Cudi, and Jay-Z.
Anyone who twerked, vogued, or dipped to the beats was fair game for jumbotron glory. Such spontaneity was a welcome divergence from more typical, heavily-staged fashion week photo ops.
It took just shy of two hours from the time doors opened to when the event officially began. The first to present was recent Parsons graduate Elena Velez, who repurposed World War II-era canvas, scrap metal, and parachutes to create haunting, banshee-looking structures.
Marrknull, the Chinese duo of Wei Wang and Tim Shi, sent their models down the runway talking on exaggeratedly large cell phones. According to Dazed, the team was inspired by how Chinese tourists move around the "scenic spots" they visit. As such, classic travel accoutrements such as fanny packs and visors were utilized.
Then came Shuting Qiu, an Antwerp-based designer whose graphic, contrastingly printed looks were paired with exaggerated face sculptures that seemed to be held on by models’ teeth.
Windowsen (founded by Sensen Lii, who also hails from Antwerp) brought the drama with unisex caution tape-yellow tiered ball gowns and one red sequined ski mask that resembled what Spiderman might wear on a night out clubbing.
Two intermissions featured musical performances. Despite the artists’ best efforts, these interruptions may have brought down the crowd’s energy, as many took these breaks as a time to bust out their phones.
Cupo closed out the evening with the debut of his VFiles Yellow Label, which reimagined 1980s power suits, juxtaposing harsh corporate silhouettes with soft milllenial pink and baby blue hues.
For the most part, the runway mirrored the crowd’s diversity — with one glaring exception. Despite racial representation and gender fluid casting, most of the models had sample size-bodies. This came the same day The Fashion Spot released its annual calculation of diversity in print ad campaigns, noting that plus-size models faced the least-demand for jobs.
The night was ultimately overshadowed by the appearance of Lil' Kim, who served as a surprise guest and one-woman finale. The Brooklyn-bred rapper stole the show and brought crowds back up to their feet, wearing an all-yellow, shoulder-padded set that was half Tweety Bird, half Tess McGill from Working Girl.
It was almost as if the folks at VFiles were saying, “Congrats, you made it through the first night of fashion week. Now back to the real party.”