NEW YORK, September 10, 2011
By Maya Singer
Today’s VPL show was a strong, exceptionally focused outing. Victoria Bartlett has a tendency—winning for the most part—to let her collections sprawl through a lot of ideas. But her latest effort lasered in on one big reference—plate tectonics—and extrapolated it, with tremendous concision, through all her brand signatures. The geologic theme expressed itself in various ways: Layered looks echoed the shifting of plates and seams opening up in the earth; volcanic prints swirled with ash gray and lava-hot neon red. And there were metaphors of mutability, like a long dress with straps dangling down the sides that could be pulled up and worn short.
The dominant VPL signature, of course, is body-consciousness. It’s a theme Bartlett treats as no one else does, usually eschewing any implication of sex and instead exploring the form and movement of human anatomy. This collection, though, did have a whiff of sex about it—there was something ineffably sensual about the shrugged-on, asymmetric sweaters, and the cut-open bandeaus and black-banded bikinis had a graphic thrust that was Helmut Newton-esque. Meanwhile, the come-on of a long, dun-colored T-shirt dress was more overt: It was simply draped wide open at the back.
Bartlett really exerted herself with her materials this season. She made convincing suits out of neon coral neoprene and a white Tyvek-like coated linen, for instance, and her big finale featured exploratory, editorial looks crafted out of foam. There was also a subtle experiment going on with the shoes: Several pairs were vegan, but it was impossible to tell which. All in all, it was one of Bartlett’s best collections yet.