Though it's already been in full swing for over three days now, New York Fashion Week this season seems to be in somewhat of a slump. Sure, Raf Simons brought a much-needed jolt of excitement with his debut show for Calvin Klein yesterday, and I'm hopeful that he'll amp up the Big Apple's prestige when it comes to local cutting-edge fashion during his tenure at the iconic American house, but the ongoing dropout of designers (including one of the city's most lauded brands, Hood By Air, who opted to show in Paris this year) has me feeling a bit glum for the state of my city's creative spirit.

The morale, however, was pleasantly lifted once I exited VFILES's FW17 show last night. During its five years of operation, the creative social networking platform has continuously pushed the boundaries when it comes to shaping the way the fashion industry works; boasting a democratic structure where youth, designers of tomorrow and diehard fans of style are able to express themselves in however way they choose sans elitist snubbery or plain-sighted ostracism.

It's this very niche yet revolutionary business model that has enabled VFILES to amass such a loyal cult following and gain the respect of high-profile celebrities and seasoned industry folk alike for all these years, making their non-traditional showcases a "must" on New York Fashion Week's jam-packed calendar.

For its eighth runway iteration, the company decided to downsize in capacity, limiting invitees to a select few media, friends, influencers and artists. The decision was a smart one on the company's part, as everything felt more intimate and systemized, compared to previous years where bum-rushing at the door and forged invites were commonplace. But what they sacrificed in guest list numbers they certainly gained back in the vastness of location, which was a large space within Viacom's headquarters pinned smack-dab in the middle of Times Square.

Prior to the show's scheduled starting time, I went backstage to catch a glimpse of what was happening behind the "seams" (cue punchline drum). Like every season, the designers (and everyone else involved in the show's production for that matter) were winning finalists sourced from VFILES's website and social media app. Under the guidance of appointed mentors Jerry Lorenzo, Tommy Hilfiger, Mel Ottenberg and Pat McGrath, each designer was given valuable insight on how to prepare and present their debut catwalk collections beforehand.

Daniëlle Cathari​, a Holland native and third year student at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, crafted up a colorful collection of repurposed sportswear fitting for an all-female Olympics tournament hosted by modern-day Power Rangers. Australian duo Peter Strateas and Mario-Luca Carlucci's label, STRATEAS CARLUCCI​, flirted with genres via a menswear lens, mixing up motocross tees and leather chaps with conservative turtlenecks and brightly-colored suit jackets. Snow Xue Gao​, a Chinese-born Parsons MFA graduate and the show's only talent plucked locally, gave classic women's suiting an avant-garde twist by draping vivid silks onto jackets, trousers and skirts cut in exaggerated proportions.

Of course, it wouldn't be a VFILES show without a few performances added to the bill. With Fool's Gold signee Brenmar spinning the beats, Chicago's Joey Purp christened the stage accompanied by a lively group of young dancers. Contrasting the high-octane opener, however, was none other than ATL rapper 21 Savage, who closed the show with a lean-tinged performance of his hit, "X".

Leave it to VFILES to restore hope in New York's thriving yet frequently overlooked creative community. Like I said in my recap of Raf Simons's FW17 show, the Big Apple's fashion scene is largely misrepresented by the commercial staleness of its fashion weeks. While other cities like Paris or Milan may be traditional platforms for the presentation of ideas from noteworthy designers, New York is where these ideas are conjured up, consumed and mutated on a daily basis; the bombastic influx of forward-thinking creativity doesn't simply spring up in the city two months out of the year. VFILES is a living criterion to this testament.

For more coverage of FW17 Fashion Week be sure to read our other reports on today’s hottest brands.

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