February 05, 2014 New York
Her enthusiasm for VFiles' project, which plucks ambitious designers out of cyberspace and plops them onto a New York catwalk, is easy to understand. Forty-five minutes after the scheduled start time, ASSK—a two-season-old Paris-based brand by Australian designers Agatha Kowalewski and Sarah Schofield—opened the event. Their urban collection of knitwear, hand-embroidered quilted jackets, crop tops, and miniskirts referenced a postapocalyptic metropolis. T-shirts were covered in a foreboding camo print scattered with pill bottles, SIM cards, and trash. Skirts were clasped with gilded carabiners, and neon-filled water bottles were slung over models' shoulders. Appropriately, their finale song was Destiny's Child's "Survivor."
Melitta Baumeister, who graduated from Parsons' fashion MA program last year, was up next, and her high-volume offering was the perfect palate cleanser after ASSK's streetwise doomsday romp. German-born, New York-based Baumeister, 27, took inspiration from contemporary culture's obsession with the digital, and turned out a sculptural range that you've got to see IRL to fully appreciate (ironic, perhaps, considering her show was backed by a website). "I considered what is fake, what is real, the loss of tangibility, and the importance of experience," she said. Aside from the oversize proportions of her black-and-white wares, which swayed and bounced as they marched down the runway, Baumeister expressed these concepts through her materials. She's developed a method of re-creating clothes—like fisherman's knits and ribbed tanks—in silicone via a series of intricate molds. Structured vinyl coats, an airy white neoprene dress, and belts crafted from marbled silicone were strong standouts.
Hyein Seo, a South Korean designer pursuing her master's degree at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, closed the show with her eighties-horror-film-inspired lineup. The 26-year-old finds said flicks "hilarious rather than scary," and embedded their comic hyperbole in her collection. Her faux fur stole, vinyl chokers, oversize sweatshirt dress, and windbreakers may have all been stamped with the word "fear," but her vision showed none. The range featured statement pieces like huge fuzzy coats printed with ghoulish faces and a kitschy backless angora body-con number. But when you looked closely, you could see garments that were wearable, cool, and modern. For instance, the pleated drop-waist dresses—paired with socks and creepers—were easy and flattering. "I'm from Antwerp, where they're very experimental and avant-garde," the designer explained backstage. "But I think it's important to keep a commercial element." As for her VFiles runway debut, she said, "It's a huge opportunity for me. I'm just a student, but because of this, I'll be able to start my own line."
A huge opportunity, indeed, but VFiles founder Julie Anne Quay doesn't see the show as charity—she sees it as her duty. "We have a responsibility to give these guys a voice, and a marketplace," she said. Speaking of which, select items from the trio's Fall collections will be available as soon as today.