Julie Anne Quay, founder of Soho store and social media site VFiles, hasn’t just created a successful business platform: She’s created a lifestyle.
“People are tribal,” says Australia native Quay, in her store on Mercer and Grand Streets in Manhattan. She picks up a pair of long black shorts with the letters “HBA” stamped across the crotch, advertising the brand Hood by Air, a favorite of Kanye West, A$AP Rocky and Rihanna. “The person who wears this is part of our tribe.”
Jeremy Scott cut-out dress, $650 | Hood by Air Black L/S T-Shirt, $240
The former executive editor of “V Magazine” (the publication is a minority partner in VFiles) and former studio manager for photographer Steven Meisel is referring to both fans of the brands — like Meat, Jeremy Scott, Madame Slutz and Moschino — carried in the store and those who also frequent the social media platform, which hosts original fashion content, online shows and bloggers.
“We like to think of ourselves as a digital style destination where music is the common denominator,” says Quay. “We’re not fashion for fashion’s sake. We don’t make clothes to put on celebrities or push any particular look. We’re more about cross-pollinating the worlds of music and fashion the way clubs used to.”
Like 1980s clubs Area and Mudd Club or stores like Fiorucci and the former Pat Field space on Eighth Street, the VFiles store feels more like a factory than a retail outlet.
“Our clients know a lot about fashion and music,” says Quay. “You wouldn’t come in here otherwise.”
This aesthetic and attitude could be precisely why the store is a favorite stop for Katy Perry, who comes in to browse the racks of Gerlan and Ashish and the shop’s collection of vintage Chanel purses. Rihanna, too, is a fan and in February wore a puffy, faux-fur and pleather getup from VFiles’ latest runway collection during Paris Fashion Week.
“She wore our three new designers — Adam Selman, Melitta Baumeister and Hyein Seo — to the Comme des Garcons show,” says Quay. “That’s huge. But we didn’t get those clothes to her. She chose to wear them because those looks speak to her on a personal level. They’re more authentic expressions of who she is than, say, some major designer. Anyone can get their stylist to call in the latest looks from some big name. But that’s not what we’re about.”
Top sellers at VFiles, says Quay, include the sequined, shredded denim creations of U.K. designer Ashish that Miley Cyrus has worn onstage. “You can find this at Barney’s,” she says. “But at VFiles, we wear it with really cool sneakers and a bomber jacket and you live in it. The person who buys this at Barney’s would wear it with pumps and a fur coat to a cocktail party maybe once.”
Now, along with a number of other potential projects, Quay is working on what she thinks will become an area of growth for the company: producing music videos for artists.
“People want the fun back in music and fashion,” says Quay. “That’s why they come to us.”