In an industry that continues to move quicker and quicker, patience is more than a virtue — it’s practically a myth. But don’t tell that to stylist Victoria Bartlett and tailor Jeffrey Costello. Their new line of innerwear-cum-outerwear, charmingly named VPL (as in visible panty line), was first conceived more than four years ago. And although, it has taken that long to transform concept into reality, it seems to have been well worth the ride.
This story first appeared in the February 14, 2003 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
At their show, on Wednesday, they cited the work of J.G. Ballard, a science-fiction writer whose seemingly normal worlds tended to disintegrate, exposing the perversity within.
Although they were inspired by vintage lingerie of the Fifties, these are hardly granny panties. Bartlett and Costello tie their references to the decade of June Cleaver with medicinal and industrial elements. Indeed their choice of colors — sage green, nude, red and white — are very much the palette of an ER.
“Ballard had an obsession with bodies and the empowerment of bodies,” says Bartlett. “There’s an understanding of these flesh-toned pieces as a second skin with all the surgical implications.”
In the presentation, they decided to stick with the medical theme. A doctor in a white lab coat conducted mock physicals, asking models to touch their toes and even knocking a few knees to make sure all reflexes checked out. “We wanted to show it in a humorous way,” says Bartlett.
Bartlett and Costello aim to effectively create their own category of garments. “The idea was to make a hybrid that bridges fashion and undergarments,” says Bartlett. “It’s meant to be seen.” VPL has already been picked up at Kirna Zabête, Colette, Brown’s in London and Joyce in Hong Kong.
Their research, over the better part of two years, involved digging for old photographs, vintage lingerie, as well as old medical books and films. As the last defining step, they hunted high and low for the perfect factory to produce their very particular innerwear vision.
It is indeed very telling that the one they finally settled on, a factory in Columbia, also produces medical underwear. “They have all these old machines that people don’t use anymore,” explains Bartlett. “They use the industrial miniature zig-zag to get the flat-lock stitch that we needed.”
Talk about a new Rx for style.