Being ahead of the curve can be both a blessing and a curse. Victoria Bartlett, for instance, is a designer who frequently finds herself too far in the vanguard, particularly in terms of her body-centricity and fluency with the aesthetic vocabulary of activewear. Other brands have been incorporating athletic influences lately, but Bartlett can justifiably claim to have got there first: Her debut VPL
show, it's worth recalling, featured models exercising at an actual gym. That was in 2004, and today, almost ten years later, Bartlett returned to the gymnasium as she ushered in a new era of VPL. In brief, this presentation marked the end of VPL as a "fashion" brand with an athletic signature and the launch of VPL as an activewear brand proper. The look of the label hasn't changed—if anything, it was concentrated here—but the materials have, with an emphasis on technical fabrics that repel water and wick sweat and "well-being" textiles such as seaweed blends.
As Bartlett explained backstage today, this evolution of VPL is really less of a categorical shift than it might seem, inasmuch as many women (this writer included) already wear its active pieces out and about, as daywear. "You see women all the time, running around in their sports bra and their leggings," Bartlett said. "This is how women really do dress. And they want options." On that point, you could argue that what's been missing in activewear is a strong point of view, precisely the thing Bartlett brings to the table. You could also hypothesize that plenty more brands are going to get into the activewear game, because women wear that stuff, and it sells. Only Victoria Bartlett could stay ahead of the curve by going back to her roots.