“Vegan. Vegan. Leather. Vegan. Leather. Leather.” That was Victoria Bartlett last night after dinner, playing show-and-tell over a small display of her Spring 2012 VPL shoes set up in the corner at Gemma’s Wine Room. However, it was the animal product-free portion of the collection that served as the reason for this happy and homey little get-together for friends like co-host Julie Gilhart, Hannelore Knuts, and dashing Last Magazine duo Magnus Berger and Tenzin Wild.
The designer has been a fur-free, vegetarian animal lover for almost three decades—despite her very English roots. “Oh, I grew up with my mum serving me liver, cow’s tongue, rabbit. You name it,” she said. (Though high fashion’s other purveyor of vegan accessories Stella McCartney is also English, and Bartlett noted that former McCartney BFF and fellow Brit Phoebe Philo was also vegan back in the day.)
Bartlett had long since made her peace with leather as a by-product but was spurred on by socialite and fashionable free spirit Arden Wohl to toss some non-leather options into the mix, and into an apparent market void. “Arden basically told me there’s not that much fashion stuff out there except for Stella,” said Bartlett. For Spring, Wohl and other conscious shoppers can choose between VPL’s strappy low wedges in faux leather—good solid Italian-made stuff that took Bartlett a year to find—in colors like putty, buff, and forest, and bright neoprene sandals with zips up the back.
This vegan venture is just a first phase. In the offing for VPL are fake leather bags and even coats. But don’t expect Bartlett to be flogging them as a marketing gimmick. The mix of cruelty-free and vero cuoio isn’t strict and neither is she. “It can be a selling point for people who want it,” she said. “But otherwise, it’s just fashion.”