A primer in VFiles history for the old and the uncool: it started as a digital creator platform and quickly became a community, opening a store in SoHo and producing runway group shows along the way. Hood by Air was the first label stocked at the 12 Mercer Street shop. Rushemy Botter, the co-creative director of Nina Ricci, is an early alum of its runway program, as are many people on the design team at Yeezy. Other names associated with VFiles over the years have included Been Trill’s trio of influential designers: Virgil Abloh, Matthew Williams, and Heron Preston.
“I started VFiles for the kids in the line,” says Julie Anne Quay. She was executive editor of V Magazine until 2008 and it always struck her that the cool kids were ones hanging out outside the parties she was giving. They should be the ones inside, she remembers thinking. VFiles was launched in 2012 with the V/Visionaire team as launch partners; they’re now separate businesses.
Since the start Quay has made empowering young people the crux of VFiles’s mission. But in 2020, says Quay, “the kids in the line need more than just a clout factory. We were great at amplifying names and generating billions of impressions on our runway shows. What we realized, especially with the social justice actions over the summer, is that we had a bigger role to play. And that is empowering our community by giving them access to opportunity and education and mentorship.”
Quay launched the VFiles Foundation over the summer; it’s now operating as a nonprofit 501(c)(3). Its first project, VFiles Lab, is a talent incubator—a sort of turbocharged version of the VFiles runway show. A call went out in late October on VFiles’s Instagram account and Quay and the Foundation’s COO Drew Cho received about 1,000 submissions in a month. They whittled down the entries to a group of seven, each of whom will receive a $10,000 grant, 10 weeks of online incubation, and a slot at the first VFiles Lab show in March.
Among the winners are a modest streetwear designer, the founder of a profit-sharing e-commerce marketplace that funds and develops emerging minority-owned brands, and a brand that integrates mental health into its designs. Additionally, the Foundation will be launching VFiles Academy, a free online education program for creators and entrepreneurs early next year.
“The seven creators we selected are strong representatives of the VFiles community and the values we stand for,” says Quay. “They are exploring projects at the intersection of culture and innovation—whether through tech or visionary narrative change. Future tech, future fashion, future music—driven by inclusivity, storytelling, and heart. We see empathy and connection as the building blocks of brand goodwill and success.” She continues: “The future Virgil Ablohs are in this group.”
Meet the seven VFiles Lab winners here: