When Julie Anne Quay founded VFILES nearly five years ago, she did so with the vision to democratize the fashion industry, to create a platform in which talented youths could connect, collaborate, and create. Cut to present day, and VFILES, along with being a social media outlet, store, and online fashion archive, has established itself as something of an incubator for churning out the Next Big Thing (whether that be a model, artist, or designer).
It’s for all these reasons that, after eight seasons, the VFILES Runway show is one of the buzziest on the New York Fashion Week line-up. Since its inception, Quay says they have seen more than 10,000 submissions from aspiring designers, stylists, make-up artists, hair stylists, photographers, and models for the chance to produce an unforgettable show with like-minded artists and incredible mentors. And this year’s, which will take place Sept. 6 at 2 p.m., has just become a whole lot buzzier: Quay has tapped Khloe Kardashian and Emma Grede (Kardashian’s Good American business partner) to join iconic designer Dapper Dan and Jimmy Moffat, the founder of Art + Commerce, to be mentors.
Let’s start with why you launched VFILES. Who is it for?
In a nutshell, I started VFILES for the kids in the line—the kids who line up for shows, for concerts, the fans. That’s the community that is always a part of culture and pushing culture forward. I wanted to create opportunities and break down the glass ceiling for young creative in fashion, music, art, and design—the industries that may have been traditionally road-blocked pre-Internet. You don’t need to have an agent to be a model—I can sign up on VFILES today and say I’m a model, or a photographer, or both. I wanted to create a way for people to discover each other, and in return, be discovered. At VFILES, we believe fashion is a team sport. Any creative endeavor is the result of a team of people working together. Khloe, Emma, and Dapper Dan—they believe in that. You’re only as good as the people around you.
What prompted the decision to ask Khloe and Emma to be mentors?
We’re really impressed and taken by the whole direction of Good American, which is all about positivity. Fashion is going through so many changes right now, and I think their whole idea of body positivity and the way they classify their clothing—Good Legs, Good Cuts, Good Waist—it’s all about essentials that make you feel good. It’s a good product by good people. It’s important for VFILES Runway to take a very positive stance toward being creative, that it’s OK to be different, it’s OK to not fit the mold.
And Dapper Dan?
Dapper Dan is a mentor and his message is all about empowerment through the way you dress, through the way you express yourself. It’s important to have mentors like that, because they’re going to be looking at collections created by young designers who spent hours and hours on it, and it’s important to not only be constructive creatively, but to have a spiritually positive standpoint. Also, we want our community to relate to the mentors—I think that’s the most important problem for us to solve when choosing mentors for VFILES Runway.
Will you be adding more mentors?
We may add a model mentor. The two biggest groups of talent on VFILES are designers and models, and I think there is an art to be a model, especially on the runway. We have Jimmy Moffat, who’s actually one of my mentors. Jimmy and Steven Meisel gave me my first job when I came to New York City in 1993. He’s my mentor, so I’m sharing him, and I’m so honored that he’s doing this. I think photography as an art, as a professional skill, has become somewhat waylaid with social media. There is still an art to lighting, to cropping, to composing an image. Jimmy has so much experience and he’s worked with the most creative minds in the industry, so it’s an honor to have him onboard.
What does the mentorship entail?
They will be presented with a shortlist of about 30 designers who have submitted their work. VFILES has been responsible for so many success stories, like Gypsy Sport, Kozaburo Akasaka was a runner-up for the LVMH Prize this year, Di$count Univer$e—the list is endless. The mentors will send us their top 5, we’ll reach out to the talent to see if they’re able to come to New York, and when they come, we’ll connect them directly with the mentors, who will work with them on what they’re going to show on the runway.
How does VFILES incorporate music?
I’m really blessed to be working closely with a bunch of guys, like Joey Purp’s team. How can we support their music? How can we promote their music? It’s always community-powered, and that’s what we wanted to do when we started VFILES. We believe that music is the voice of fashion. You can’t have fashion without music and music without fashion. They’re the same thing.
We love that Dapper Dan’s work is a blend of music and fashion.
If you get to talk to him, words can’t even describe him. He has very, very specific opinions about hip-hop. Hip-hop is pop right now. If you look at the top 10 songs around the world, it’s hip-hop. Hip-hop and hip-hop style is more important than ever in terms of culture. It starts and ends with the street. It starts and ends with the youth. And that’s what VFILES is—we want to be where it starts and we want to create opportunities for where it starts to grow into something bigger. If you look on the VFILESplatform, you’ll see multiple users and you’ll see Karl Lagerfeld, Mario Testino, Inez & Vinoodh, Steven Meisel, and we all exist together in one big creative hot pot. We want to be supportive, promote, and develop.
What did you think about Gucci taking inspiration from Dapper Dan?
Everyone watches everything you do. Fashion is iterative and everything that you see has probably been somewhere else mainly because the human body is two legs, two arms, a head, and a torso. There’s always going to be versions of things, and I thought it was interesting that Gucci did that. I think it just says more than ever how important it is what VFILES does, how important it is to give a voice to the street and the global youth, and how important it is that people listen and pay attention. That’s the message I got from that. That’s an acknowledgement from a huge international fashion house—what’s happening on the street.
What’s next for VFILES?
We’re going to be partnering with Robin Hood, New York City’s largest poverty-fighting organization, to form the VFILES + Robin Hood Community Partnership, which will benefit the needs of our global youth community. We did a survey of our community last year around issues, and the biggest issues are immigration, health, and education. Another big issue is the lack of equal opportunity. Our goal is to create opportunity, to provide support when needed, and to give a platform to talk about immigration, health, and education. We don’t want to be political—we just want to be there. It’s launching Aug. 21.
Finally, it’s important to say that VFILES continues to democratize and disrupt the creative industry in an authentic way. Come along, come to the show, be a part of it, because we believe the future is pretty amazing.