Julie Anne Quay, founder of VFILES, give us some insight into how brands are picked to be part of the retailer's coveted MADE FASHION show. Walk with us through the show above and read on to find out what it takes to become a VFILES-endorsed designer.
The Fall/Winter 2015 season of Mercedes-Benz New York Fashion Week at Lincoln Center was kicked off by VFILES, a seemingly unlikely partner for the traditional venue. But all doubts and concerns aside, the retailer-turned-brand-turned-brand incubator held a more than successful start of the week with VFILES MADE FASHION, a runway show of brands that were picked by the VFILES user community. Mentored by the likes of Italo Zucchelli (Calvin Klein creative director), Mel Ottenberg (032C fashion director), James Kaliardos and Dirk Standen, young designers showcased their fall collections in front of an anticipating crowd of editors, buyers and fans. The runway was started off by a group of energetic kids on skateboards and scooters donning VFILES private label; one of them was Mademoiselle Yulia.
The designer lineup included Ximon Lee, Andrea Jiapei Li, DI$COUNT UNIVERSE and Julia Seemann, the first two of whom we met last month at H&M's Design Award competition at Copenhagen Fashion Week. After reigning as the first menswear designer to ever win H&M's coveted award, Lee brought his Soviet-era street kid inspired collection to New York, showing alongside the other designers whose clothes were just as street in attitude as his.
Leading up to the show, we had the chance to speak with VFILES founder Julie Anne Quay regarding VFILES MADE FASHION and its blossoming brands. Read on to find out how the designers are chosen for the show and what their future is with VFILES.
Can you walk us through how you choose the designers?
We announce on our platform that we’re accepting submissions. You create your user profile, upload your images and that’s it. We pay attention to the most popular one -- designers that other people like and that are getting a lot of traction. And then VFILES pulls the top 15. Those are based on creativity, commerciability and likeability. It can be really really creative, but it may not be really likable, or it can be super creative and likable but not commercial. We need all these three things to have a candidate, and then we send [the list] to [the mentors] and they literally vote.
Do you see a pattern in where the popular designs are coming from?
They’re from everywhere -- our designers have all been from Paris, London… we had two Russian designers. They’re from all over the world. This year, we’ve got two New Yorkers, both from Parsons, so it’s very interesting. It’s [actually] very hard to find New York designers.
All these kids are very big Interneters. I would say that maybe they are different than the kids who would enter the CFDA Vogue Fund; that seems to be a little bit older and a little bit more traditional. I think the kids that enter VFILES MADE FASHION are a little bit more like, “Let’s go. This is my line, I made it.”
Do you personally keep in touch with these designers? When Ximon won the H&M design award, how did that make you feel?
We kind of knew it was going to happen because we talked to him. I think it’s a great validation. We talked to this guy and H&M are giving him an award already? We think that’s really fantastic.
And Andrea Jiapei Li; she ended up being at Dover Street. People of that caliber are entering our competition. I think it’s really fun that they want to be a part of VFILES and we’re just really honored by that. They’re family. They’re legitimately ours.
From your past fashion shows, have you seen a significant difference or growth in designers after they’ve shown with you?
Yeah, I mean they’re at major department stores, they’re dressing Kanye West, Rihanna, they’re doing collaborations with the NBA. Every single one of them is a real business. Gypsy Sport did a whole section of costumes for the Hunger Games. We’re just really proud of them.
We have banners of every designer. When you go to Madison Square Garden, you see Ewing, John Starks… You have all those guys [and] their numbers. We have all of our designers’. When they come back to the show and they see their names up there, it’s a really emotional thing. We are right there with them. This is not easy -- the reason why no one does this is because it’s really hard. It’s really hard to get a young designer -- and I’m not saying they’re not talented because they're super talented -- but to get that into an environment where other people will appreciate how talented they are is really challenging. There are so many elements and we’re such a young company, so it’s hard.
This is your first time showing at Lincoln Center. What was the decision behind that?
It’s funny. We were looking at all the normal downtown places, and what we found was that everybody is coming downtown. Anna was like, “You know what, why don’t we just show at Lincoln Center?” It’s the last season, they’re never going to be there again. And for a young designer, it’s a huge deal. For us, too, to show at Lincoln Center is such an achievement.
Could you define "the VFILES generation" for us?
VFILES brings this energy and it’s very much a generation of kids and people that believe in who they are, and that they’re gonna do it, and we’re gonna help them do it, too. It’s a different generation because -- I have a long background in print, and everything in print it was always secret -- [but the] Internet generation and VFILES, we share everything. If you enter the CFDA Awards Competition or whatever, everything is hidden. You can’t see who entered. If you enter VFILES MADE FASHION, you can see everybody who entered, who you’re playing with and what’s going on, and that I think is a very open and honest community. It’s very transparent.
You said that you guys are like family and you love helping new designers. How do you think the designers help you for the VFILES business?
Pragmatically, we all get exclusives on their first collections when they drop it, and now we’re wholesaling them. We are partners, and our aim is to be a brand incubator, to really grow those brands because we’ve done a great job so far growing our brand. The strength of VFILES is the community, and we keep growing the community. We keep making people in our community successful.
Does your love of sports influence how you merchandise VFILES or is it completely trend-focused?
What makes VFILES VFILES is that we are all sports fans, so our saying is that “Fashion is a team sport.” We approach everything from a sports perspective, and that doesn’t mean we’re gonna approach it like, “Okay, we’re going to make leggings and crop tops and a hoodie and performance gear…” We just believe that the attitude of sports should be applied to fashion: focus, performance, winning and losing. For example, when you have a great shoot, there’s a great feeling amongst the crew. It’s like you just won a game, you go home all pumped. We believe fashion is a team sport and everyone is a part of the team, and we say all the time, “You’re only as strong as your weakest link.” That’s how we roll.