September 8, 2012 NEW YORK
By Maya Singer
They say that the best way to treat a fear of heights is to go bungee jumping. Face your demons and all that. VPL designer Victoria Bartlett didn’t conquer any phobias with her latest collection, but today’s show did see her going mano a mano with some of her strong aversions. Pastels, for instance. Long skirts. Stiffness. Sequins. And Bartlett’s efforts to master elements she has typically avoided paid off: This was, to put it plainly, a very good show.
Not that Bartlett jettisoned her VPL vocabulary. Not at all: Activewear references, skin tones, and draping were all present and accounted for, alongside other label signatures. Bartlett’s strategy here was to assimilate new ideas into her vernacular, for instance by attaching a hard metallic shoulder to a draped dress, or elaborating her characteristic backward-facing volumes by blowing them up and making a gown-size parachute skirt. Elsewhere, the designer faced down a couple of unfamiliar silhouettes: There were slim, pencil-shaped looks, the best of which comprised a squared-off black tank top with metallic embellishment and a trim matching skirt; there were also voluminous wide-leg trousers, trimmed with burn-out sequins, a recurring collection motif.
Those sequins looked to be of a piece with this season’s key print, a stripey blur of color that Bartlett said was inspired by watching the documentary Gerhard Richter Painting. She was, she explained, trying to capture a sense of motion. That was fitting, given the forward momentum Bartlett has generated for herself with this collection: As solid as it was on its own, the show also contained a trove of ideas for future exploration. This was perhaps nowhere more true than in the finale. Typically, the last dozen or so looks that Bartlett sends out at her shows are a coda, featuring VPL lingerie, bathing suits, and elaborate, borderline ridiculous experimental pieces. This time out, the see-through jumpsuits and anoraks looked like the kind of thing people will want to be wearing out on the street come spring.