Monrowe spoke with stylist and designer of fashion activewear label VPL, Victoria Bartlett, about her recent collaboration with choreographer, Emery LeCrone for her 2015 ballet performance at The Joyce Theater in New York.
You don’t often see many details in active wear but your work is very detail oriented. Is that a priority for you when designing?
Bartlett: [The priority] is more fashion-active. I started in a way that was always active. I did a collection with skateboarders, with people at the gym and the funny thing is, VPL – which is a reference to detail and geometry and certain stitches – reference the sutras and preoperative guide-rams. Colors were always really important to me, as well as following the body’s geography, following the muscles and different parts of the body. It was always about dissecting the body and putting it back together. For me, it was that idea that you can take apart the body and put it back together. The color blocking becomes a line that breaks up the body and then puts it back in the perfect place. A very diagrammatic experience.
Was your plan to always work with dancers?
Bartlett: It didn’t start out that way but I’ve always been fascinated by them. From a very early point in time when I was designing the collection, I always wanted to see the clothing in movement. The idea of motion with the garments was always extremely important to me. I told Emery that I had done collections where I would reference Martha Graham and translate that into clothing specifically for movement. For the Guggenheim piece, I had done all of these patchwork pieces with four dancers. After, we did the campaign for the New York Ballet and then came my work with the Ballerina Project…It’s a concept that has grown and is still growing.
How was your collaboration with Emery different than previous collaborations?
Bartlett: Emery came to me in April she said she wanted to do something with color. It was originally going to be two parts. I pulled out some colors and a mood board. I originally started in salmon, yellow, green and orange and then it morphed into these blues and purples and blacks and gradations. Then we talked about it more and broke it down and reassembled; it became a discussion of not having two parts, but instead, just pulling off the layers.
The guys would have the yellow and the women would have the green and they would pull each color apart. There was a lot of recycling old outfits and re-appropriating them. It was like a jigsaw puzzle. It was an evolution. Because there was no budget, we had to rehearse in the clothes because we had to know how they would work so there was only one of each outfit. It’s excessive the amount of dancing; non-stop for 25 minutes and three of the dancers had their pieces saturated in sweat so I had to design these undergarment bodies for them to wear so as not to damage the pieces. That was something I had never done before.