Designer Victoria Bartlett on styling and the difficulties of producing cruelty-free fashion
I hear women who are into fashion and are vegan or don't wear fur or leather say, "There's no one but Stella (McCartney) who works with that." I do use leather as well; but I'll only use byproducts (of animals) that have been eaten. I'll never use anything that's farmed. That's my issue.
It's been really hard to make shoes -- it's been a hard maneuver, even with the factories in Italy. They can do fabric (exteriors) but they use leather inside. It's been a huge project to change and convert, bit by bit. Every season there's issues. It's complicated and it shouldn't be. But it is because it's the nature of tradition and what people are used to.
You're coming up on the ten-year anniversary of VPL. Prior to creating the brand, you were a stylist. What brought you to making your own clothes back then?
I actually started in design and crossed over into styling; I worked with designers prior. I took a sabbatical and decided I wanted to go into styling and I wanted to learn that side of the business. So for me, it was stepping back into design, which is one of the most beneficial assets to have.
I know from when I styled with designers and consulted before, the hardest thing for them was, you can design but you don't always know how to place (a piece) into a story. You can do a skirt, you can do a top, but actually creating a whole unit is the hardest thing. So for me, I almost work backwards -- I work from a concept into the pieces.
I think that (it's important to have that) background knowledge of styling and understanding how to unite the two entities and really create a whole, full story. The rhetoric crosses over better, there's a much better dialog if you know both sides of the tracks.
You do a lot of collaborations with artists, musicians, dancers, filmmakers. What drives you to collaborate?
For me it's an integral part of VPL; motion, movement, performance. The whole concept of movement within the clothes. Being able to have comfort but being modernist with it.
It's functional and still beautiful.
Yeah. We just did (a shoot) with Wendy Whelan, principal dancer at the New York City Ballet -- dance has always been a big thing. Caroline Polachek from Chairlift has performed in our pieces. Eleanor Friedberger is a friend and just told me she used one of our swimsuits for the cover of her new album (due out later this year on Merge Records.) A lot of musicians like Rihanna and Lady Gaga have worn (our clothes) for performances.
The VPL Resort + Spring Trunk Show takes place tomorrow, January 29, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Goldyn. The event is free; drinks and snacks will be served throughout the day. For more information, visit the shop's website.