Andrea Blanch: When you first moved to New York City from England in 1987, did you ever imagine looking fifteen years into the future and see yourself doing something like VPL? Victoria Bartlett: No, I wasn’t sure what my true vocation was. I was open minded, but I did have aspirations to become a designer.
AB: How did you get your start in the fashion business?
VB: I received a degree in fashion design, worked with several young designers and a couturier in London, then I crossed the Atlantic to embark on my second fashion career. I initially designed a line with designer, Jeffrey Costello, did fashion illustration, and then crossed the border into styling.
AB: Tell me about your transition between being a stylist to being a designer. How does one influence the other?
VB: I actually started as a designer and then transitioned into styling. I wanted to explore a new realm in fashion which was a new movement. Styling was about creating concepts rather than creating items, and being versed in both helped connect the dots to creating a collection and a defined concept. So in runway it was understanding how to assemble and unite those components.
AB: Why did you decide to make the transition?
VB: It was a reverse transition. I went back into design with the concept of VPL and that it would fill the missing niche between lingerie and fashion. These foundations would serve as building blocks.
AB: Do you still do some styling?
VB: Once in a while I love to style, but it’s only a matter of time...
AB: Who are your influences as far as wearing underwear and taking it to the street?
VB: Dance performance, e.g., Anita Berber, Michael Clark, who were pushing the boundaries of underlings taken out of context. Also Ursula Andress in The 10th Victim with the bullet bra.
AB: What does VPL stand for? What was your inspiration for this clothing line?
VB: Visible Panty Line. The inspirations came from extractions of medical references. I was interested in the science of surgery, stitches emulating sutures became the trademark of VPL. The concept was to be visible not hidden, hence the motto: underwear, outerwear, anywhere.
AB: How long did it take to get the project off the ground from inception to production?
VB: It took a year of research, discussion and visualization to set in stone the VPL mantra and find the factories necessary for production.
AB: What inspired you to start mixing under-pieces with clothing?
VB: It was an idea to illustrate the VPL philosophy of building blocks, showing how it was meant to be a visible layering piece to recreate one’s outfit.
AB: Why athletic-wear? Is this to bridge the gap between lingerie and ready-to-wear?
VB: It was really a return to the initial concept of VPL, performance and dance being an integral inspiration for the line. It set the tone for the collection: clothing that enabled movement Many shows during the life of VPL were actively inspired: the gym show, the skateboard show, the Olympic show. Bringing it to fashion-active made perfect sense, once again creating an original platform.
AB: What interests you about athletic-wear in general?
VB: It is the idea of movement in clothing, the dynamics that happen and the way fabrics react to movement. Also, the science behind the technology fascinates me.
AB: What has been your favorite project to work on?
VB: Second Skin. It was an exhibition and book I co-curated at the VPL space with fourteen great artists including Sarah Lucas, Jack Pierson, Ugo Rondinone, Johngiorno, Genesis P. Oridge, Collier Schor, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, David Armstrong, Adam McEwen, and other great artists, which was based on the artist's interpretation of the topic.
AB: What is your biggest challenge as a designer and for your line?
VB: Bridging the gap between creative desire and commercial necessity.
AB: Do you plan on opening any new stores?
VB: Yes, in time.
AB: What you do is unique. How does that effect the way you market VPL?
VB: It took a long time for people to understand the concept, and then the concept started getting copied. We have a very loyal fan base now and that is the most important factor.
AB: How has the fashion industry changed since you entered and how has that effected your line?
VB: It has changed ten-fold. It used to be much more directional and selective, now the industry is over-saturated and smothering itself. It's crippled the amount of quantity sold as buyers buy many and less these days… That is one of the reasons we focused the line to be a specific concept, which is what sets it apart.
AB: Where do you see VPL going? How do you see it evolving from here?
VB: I see VPL paving the way in this new direction of fashion-active and heading a new movement of this genre. I always liked to create new platforms that bridge concepts. I'm hoping this new direction opens doors to many possibilities.
AB: What has been your biggest opportunity in life, and for VPL?
VB: The ability to work and collaborate with great artists and talent.
AB: What do you see as VPL’s greatest challenge in the next five years?
VB: To establish all the goals we have made and see them all realized. There are a lot of challenges ahead.
AB: What inspired your interest in vitamin infused fabrics?
VB: The science involved in creating these components used in beauty based products; how if converted into a fabric, one could experience health benefits.
AB: Can you explain the purpose of vitamin-infused tech fabrics and how people benefit from wearing them?
VB: The technology conversion is my interest here and how we benefit. It follows a similar process as with beauty products, that you need to wear on a regular bases to reap the benefits. The vitamins infuse into the body, but it is a small % so it needs to be on a regular basis for all the vitamin based fabrics.
AB: What is the process of infusing the vitamins into the clothing? Where are they made?
VB: The vitamin based fabrics are impregnated with the vitamins and the mineral based fabrics, such as the seaweed cellulose, are dissolved and blended with other minerals and converted into into fibers using the lyocell process. UV fabrics are created by binding fifty sunscreens to fibers and also adding polymer beads which reflect harsh rays. Most of the technology comes from Japan and Germany.
AB: How would you like to see this idea evolve? Do you see this as a movement?
VB: I want to see the use of more vitamins and mineral technology expanded in the same way as vitamins and beauty technology are developing. The future of this technology is promising, as we are in an era of well-being and people are interested in what can help them preserve their health. I definitely see a movement in this technology.
AB: What are its possibilities?
VB: There's an unlimited amount of undiscovered possibilities waiting to come to the forefront and develop this technology.