Meet the Winners of VFILES Season 8 Fall 2017

Meet the Winners of VFILES Season 8 Fall 2017

We interview the emerging talent, chosen by a panel of experts including Tommy Hilfiger and Mel Ottenberg, that showcased their design, styling, and photography skills at VFILES's Season 8 show.

We interview the emerging talent, chosen by a panel of experts including Tommy Hilfiger and Mel Ottenberg, that showcased their design, styling, and photography skills at VFILES's Season 8 show.

Photography: Myles Loftin

Text: MATHIAS ROSENZWEIG

Snow Xue Gao

If Rihanna is wearing your clothes, you’ve basically made it as a designer. Snow Xue Gao is flattered anytime someone orders her pieces, let alone the biggest superstars in the world. Her aesthetic is sort of WFH meets formal business wear, with blankets and sheets literally sewn into baggy blazers and pin-striped pants. Having originally wanted to study architecture, Gao was instead placed in a fashion design program—an “accident” that turned out remarkably well. We spoke to the VFILES starlet about what it’s like to start a new brand, garment construction, and what she’d be doing if she weren’t designing clothes for some of the world’s most famous artists.

You just started your brand last year. What is it like trying to get something totally new up off the ground? 

Starting a new brand is not like starting a new collection; it is more like a start-up company, especially when it's based in New York. It is really hard for me with a designer background. Because in the beginning, working in the industry in every area, from design to production, to sales and media, was like jumping into cold water. But I got a lot of help from nice people. But every small thing can make me feel stressed from the beginning.

What are the biggest inspirations for your line? 

Tailored suiting, draping and high quality. I love to collect vintage, hand-tailored pieces. I usually drape my pieces from my vintage collection on models to get interesting looks. Then I develop real pieces from the looks. I also love using wool, cashmere and silk for my pieces.

You wanted to study architecture after high school. How has that affected your taste? 

I think maybe that’s why I’m really interested in garment construction. I usually think about the construction first; then the textile. I enjoy making the construction in an interesting way; you can see that there are a lot of deconstructed pieces in my collection.

Who would be the face of your line if you could choose anyone? 

Cate Blanchett.

What has been your biggest accomplishment to date?

My graduate collection got two wholesale orders without any promotion, which gave me a little bit of confidence. It helped me feel like I wasn’t just making useless designs. That people want to wear my pieces mean a lot to me.

 Have you been involved in NYFW before? If so, how so? 

Yes, my last collection, which was my graduate collection, showed during NYFW at Parsons’ MFA show. I also interned for Jason Wu before, so I’ve helped with their runway collection for a couple of seasons. During NYFW, everything is very fast, very crazy, but also exciting.

 

Mario-Luca Carlucci and Peter Strateas

Designers Mario-Luca Carlucci and Peter Strateas, who came together to form the brand Strateas Carlucci, like to be a little playful. This season, they’ve dubbed their collection ORCHIS, which means both flower and testicle in Greek. The collection toys with the fine line that differentiates the banal from erotica and the sexualization of every-day items, even in a comedic fashion. We spoke to Carlucci about how he and Strateas met, why they took their collection in this tongue-in-cheek direction, and how NYFW has changed over the years.  

ORCHIS translates into testicle. Why did you choose this name for this collection? 

For this collection, we were inspired by Japanese photographer and artist, Nobuyoshi Araki. Araki explores pornography, fetishism, and sexualizing non-sexual objects. In his work, he focuses on a portion of an object or subject, which often looks like something explicit, tricking the viewer. Inspired by Araki’s works, we conducted a series of photographs of an Orchid. Here, we took a non-sexual object, pierced flowers stem, and captured a series of suggestive imagery, which became the catalyst for the collection. Orchid, comes from the word ‘Orchis’, which in ancient Greek, derives from ‘testicle’, due to the appearance of the flowers roots.

Is this collection overtly sexual in any way? 

There are certain sexual undertones and suggestions throughout the collection, however we wanted this to be subtle and opposed to explicit. The theme lends itself to subversive messaging, especially the point of inspiration in Araki’s work. The way we tackled this in the collection was through the use of hardware and piercings placed in suggestive areas of the garments. There are also a few tongue-in-cheek pieces via the printed “Fetish” and “Thirsty” tees, alongside the leather chaps.

How did the two of you start working together? 

Peter and I have been friends since high school, and have collaborated on a number of various projects very early on. After our studies, we began working more in the fashion space, and organically, the idea of beginning our brand developed.

What do you each bring to the table that balances each other out? 

We are both very different people, creatively and personally. So when we fuse our personalities and visions together, they seem to balance each other out and create something unique. An underlying theme in our work is this idea of oppositions and merging them together, which is also evident with us. We share the creative process and then take on different responsibilities of the business. Being a small brand, we do many of the processes in-house, so by having two of us helps by delegating and doing various tasks.

Why are you particularly excited to be a part of VFILES? 

VFILES is an amazing platform for all creatives—not just fashion. In a way, we share the same vision: to create a unique world where there are no boundaries and support and celebrate any type of creativity. To be selected to represent new talent via the VFILES runway is a huge honor for us. It gives us a platform to share our vision with like-minded individuals and help spread and share that vision.

 

Daniëlle Cathari

Currently in her third year at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute, designer Daniëlle Cathari is already making waves internationally. Her collection, dubbed “Something For Your Mind,” explores the intersection amongst elements you would think to be complete opposites, such as sportswear and formal suits. The contrasts are tasteful and strategic; when looking at a full ensemble, the juxtapositions ultimately blend together fairly seamlessly. We caught up with Cathari about fashion in Amsterdam, balancing rationality with emotions, and what she’d be doing if she weren’t bursting onto the fashion scene.

What is the fashion scene in Amsterdam like compared to that of New York? 

The fashion scene in Amsterdam is full of creative talents, just like in the US. The only big difference I can think of is the size of the city. Because Amsterdam is so small, the fashion scene is too. Especially when you compare it to New York.

What exactly is "Something For Your Mind"? 

“Something For Your Mind” is the name of my collection. It symbolizes my internal struggle to find a balance between thinking rational and emotional. With this collection, I wanted to make people think about this balance by using these contrasting elements; deconstructed vintage Adidas tracksuits and woolen tailored coats with ruffles.

Have you been involved in NYFW before? If so, how so? 

No, this is my very first time ever!

What are some stereotypes about the fashion world that you've found to be absolutely true? 

That it’s a hard working environment full of stress!

If you could see anyone in your clothes, who would it be? 

I would love to see Pharrell Williams in the deconstructed tracksuits. Mainly because Pharrell has such a positive vibe around him and I think the colored tracksuits would be a great match with that vibe.

How do you gauge your own success? 

By waking up and realizing that I’m doing the things that I love to do. And also by achieving goals that I’ve set for myself.

Myles Loftin

At the ripe age of 18, freelance photographer and Parsons freshman Myles Loftin is already making advances as the next big fashion photographer. His work, which he uses to help inspire artists of color to pursue their passions professionally, has already been featured in fashion magazines such as Dazed and THE FADER. His work has also been shown at various galleries and spaces throughout the U.S. We spoke to Loftin about the industry’s continued lack of diversity, winning at social media, and why success is an abstract concept.

Do you feel like people ever don't take you seriously as an artist since you're so young? 

I haven't experienced any situations where I wasn't taken as seriously because of my age. I have had instances where my value wasn't taken seriously because I'm an artist. People often love the idea of art until it's time to pay for it.

When and why did you start taking photographs? 

I started taking photographs during the summer between my 8th and 9th-grade year. My interest was sparked by a trip that I took that summer with my family to Italy. My uncle let us borrow his DSLR, and I sort of took it upon myself to document our vacation. I think I was compelled to start taking pictures because I wanted to capture beautiful moments and freeze them in time.

When did you decide to start doing photography on a more professional level? 

I don't know if I can pinpoint when I decided for myself that I wanted to pursue photography as a career; however, I can remember doing my first paid photo shoot about three years ago. It was probably soon after that where I realized I wanted this to be my career, and that I wanted to shoot for fashion magazines.

What has been your biggest artistic accomplishment to date? 

Last summer, The FADER hired me to shoot for a story that they were doing on American teenagers. I got to photograph four of my friends and interview them about their futures. The story was featured online and in print. It was almost surreal going to Barnes and Noble to purchase a copy and seeing my work there in a magazine along with my other favorite magazines.

What typically gives you the most inspiration? 

I've found that recently, a lot of my inspiration has come from the past. If you look at my Tumblr, most of the things I reblog are scans from old magazine spreads, ads, and runway shows from the ‘80s and ‘90s. I think I'm most drawn to these because they have such vibrant, warm color schemes. They're simultaneously timeless and nostalgic.

If you weren't a photographer/student, how do you think you'd be spending your days? 

I always have been and always will be an artist, so if I weren’t a photographer or student, I would be doing something related to the arts; either creating my own art or helping people out in the realm of art. I think it would be really cool to mentor young artists of color, and give them advice regarding things like using social media to promote their work, applying to art school, and making money off of your art.

What is something that you'd like to change about the fashion world? 

One of the most obvious problems in the fashion world is its extreme lack of diversity. While there are several brands, agencies and individuals that are helping to dissolve this problem, it still needs to be fixed. We need intersectional diversity in fashion because everyone deserves representation.

Why are you excited to be a part of VFILES? 

I'm excited to be a part of VFILES because I'm being given a huge platform to showcase my work, make connections with creatives, and experience the fashion industry first hand. This opportunity to work with VFILES for Runway Season 8 is a really great honor, and I plan on making the most out of it.

 

Jenni Iva Wimmerstedt

If you’ve ever been backstage at a fashion show, you know that it’s an absolute frenzy of fitting clothes, applying makeup and styling hair. That last part is key—shows like Marc Jacobs, whose models sported rainbow-colored dreadlocks last season, or this season’s Gypsy Sport, highlight just how integral the top of a model’s head is when presenting a new collection. Hair stylist Jenni Iva Wimmerstedt is quickly becoming one of the biggest names for perfecting those iconic 'dos. Originally from Sweden, Wimmerstedt worked with major brands like Chloé and Nylon before being chosen as VFILES’ winning hairstylist. V spoke to her about why she loves NYC, stereotypes she’s found to be true about fashion, and dreaming of working with Brooke Candy.

When did you move from Sweden to New York? 

I moved to New York City 2 years ago.

What have been some of the most rewarding projects you've been a part of? 

The first time I won the Swedish championship, which led me to represent my country in the international competition for hair stylists. I was fortunate enough to bring home some medals.

What's your favorite part about NYFW? 


It’s the excitement, the energy and all the people from all over the world coming together to produce amazing shows with beautiful clothing, makeup, and hair.

What's your least favorite part?

My least favorite part is that I’m never able to sit in the audience and watch the show.

If you weren't styling hair, what do you think you'd be doing? 

If I weren’t styling hair, I’d love to learn more about photography. Contrary to my friends’ beliefs that I’d go on to be the next Masterchef.

Who is your ideal client? 

I think it would be Brooke Candy. I’ve always admired her for her bold style.

Why are you excited to be a part of VFILES? 

Coming from a different country to NYC with no connections hasn’t been easy. Being chosen as the winning hairstylist for VFILES Runway validates that I’ve been doing something right and moving in the right direction. Collaborating together with this fantastic team of creatives from all around the world is such an amazing experience!

Any hair tips for the winter? 

I really appreciate the wide range of what we actually call fashion nowadays. Stay true to your own style but try to experiment more with different textures or fun hair accessories. My favorite for a ”bad hair day” is Aileyan Accessories in Brooklyn. They make the coolest hats you can possibly dream of!

 

Jaleesa Jaikaran

Emerging makeup artist Jaleesa Jaikaran came to the U.S. from Trinidad, where she worked with some of the country’s top photographers and artists. Her approach to makeup? “I like skin to look like skin,” she says—a refreshing sentiment, indeed. We caught up with the behind-the-scenes talent to discuss moving to NYC, why you should always be early, and her favorite beauty products to use this season.

What was it like moving from Trinidad to NYC? 

It's an interesting story, actually. In August 2012, I was reading a book about a woman who took a sabbatical to France to follow her dreams, and I wanted to do the same. I used to work with MAC in Trinidad but didn't want to move to NYC without a job. My manager and mentor at the time, [a woman named] Melanie, convinced me that I should just move. I applied for a new position with the brand and started sending my suitcases to New York before I even had the job. When I found out it was all a go in March, I booked my ticket and two weeks later, I was out. The transition was uncomfortable, but it was nice that I had friends and family already living here.

What has been the best part about living in the city? 

The energy in NYC is unmatched. You're surrounded by endless possibilities every single day. You can meet someone "randomly" today that could change your life forever. You just never know. My first NYFW was exciting; I was nervous because I was working with Kabuki for the first time but it was an amazing opportunity and I was really happy to be part of such an amazing team.

What is a stereotype about the fashion industry that you've found to be absolutely true? 

Early is on time and on time is late.

What are your favorite products this season? 

I'm really loving Milk Makeup, Matte Bronzer, Senna Brow Pencils, and Makeup Forever's Acrylip.

What inspires you the most? 

I'm really inspired by music. I listen to it almost all the time. I am open to most genres but I listen to mostly Afrobeats, Soca and of course '90s Hip Hop & RnB.

What do you want to do differently in 2017? 

In 2017, I plan to do much more traveling. As I grow in my work I want to expand my borders, the people I work with, and open my mind to new cultures and inspirations.

Why are you excited to be a part of VFILES? 

Excited? More like ecstatic! VFILES has really opened the door to new talent; they've given us the opportunity to express ourselves on a whole new level. The team is like family and I'm so grateful to be part of it now!

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