Upcycling, NFTs, augmented reality, styling or creating silicone prosthetics, Vanille Verloës is a girl with more strings to her bow than new clothes in her wardrobe. Concerned with fashion sustainability, the French stylist and designer always has the most creative ideas on how to keep the clothing industry on the right track. Collaborating with brands such as Levi's, Lacoste and Burberry, she creates sexy and deconstructed pieces following her lifelong motto “care, repair, rewear.”
Working with it-girls, as the lingerie maker and body-morphing artist Michaela Stark, virtual influencer Lil Miquela, or most lately the make-up artist and grillz designer Lisa Michalik, she loves her community and is on the verge of transitioning them into the metaverse. In this interview, she talks about her love for crafts and explains her opinions on fashion consumption before introducing us to her latest collection of wearable NFTs.
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How did you first get introduced to fashion?
I grew up in the French countryside, and as we had satellite TV, I spent a lot of time in front of FashionTV watching the top model catwalk. It was also the 2000s, so I watched all of the R&B music videos where women figures were powerful and also hypersexualised. I read Vogue France, one of the only fashion magazines we could easily find in the countryside and in my room I hung images of Steven Meisel and Mario Testino’s Gucci campaigns, Nick Knight’s 2000 Dior one or the Dolce & Gabbana Gisele Bündchen campaign of 2003. It influenced my aesthetic a lot.
On the other hand, my mum has always been quite crafty, she did embroidery, and to keep me occupied during the day, she organised DIY workshops. As a kid, I was always playing around with fabrics and making crafts. Then I moved to Paris to study fashion design at la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne. On the side, I kept on taking knitting, weaving, and embroidery classes and after my studies, I started working as an assistant for the creative direction of See by Chloé.
Upcycling now is a huge part of your practice, but how and why did you first launch yourself into it?
I was greatly inspired by the work of Martin Margiela, who really is one of the first to have introduced upcycling in his couture collections. I remember that one day, I found online the pattern of his DIY sock sweater and made it with a ton of Nike socks I had. It was an easy one! The same week I made a corset with the socks left and ended up going to the Off-White show wearing those two pieces.
It then all went really fast because, after my job at Chloé, I began styling for photoshoots, and was already using vintage pieces. At that moment, I started collecting a lot of John Galliano’s kids’ clothes and found this 8-year-old Dior set with pink flowers and monograms from 2001.
With one of my best friends, the designer, Vincent Garnier Pressiat, we made a corset out of that little girl jacket. Her name was handwritten on a tag that we kept on the side… And that’s how we turned a cute set for kids into a very sexy piece! (Laughs).
Why does it hold significance for you to incorporate those upcycled pieces into your styling work?
As I said, I first introduced a lot of vintage in my styling, as it was a way of having unique pieces while allowing me to send a message about fashion consumption. Because styling for editorial and commercial jobs is literally doing brand promotion every day. On the side, I’ve always kept on sewing and creating garments with my vintage finds.
But one day, I felt deeply troubled and concerned about the state of the Earth. I have always been concerned by environmental issues, but on that particular day, I either thought I needed to quit my job or tried to have a voice that could make fashion evolve toward sustainability. So I decided to really focus my practice on upcycling.
We all have those t-shirts that we keep forever because of the pattern or for a sentimental reason but don’t wear it as it doesn't fit or aren't trendy anymore… Upcycling allows turning those t-shirts into new wearable pieces without losing the sentimental value that comes with them. I really wanted to share my passion for this process and as there are already so many clothes on this earth that end up in the garbage, I truly believe that we don’t need new ones and that’s also the message I wanted to convey.
What about you, what are your habits fashion-wise?
So, to begin with, I spent most of my time in pyjamas… (laughs). But to go out, I wear sexy yet comfy dresses that I buy on Vinted or that I own from my grandma.
I also love to go vintage shopping or to flea markets, not only for clothes but for furniture too. In my opinion, second-hand items are the most beautiful, they are better finished and of better quality. Sometimes, they are fairly used or broken, but they all have a story, and a soul and that’s what I love about them!
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We currently seem to be stuck in an overproduction and overconsumption fashion system, run by influencers’ hauls and fast fashion shopping injunction. How do you think this damaging economic model could be disrupted?
That’s the exact reason why I'm doing digital garments right now. So many people are just buying or being gifted clothes by brands to take one single picture for social media, while not really wearing the clothes in the end. All of those pieces don’t need to be produced, and pictures for social media should be done with augmented reality digital fashion… Like the filters on Instagram.
Fashion calendars should also change, maybe by creating fewer pieces or doing fewer seasons, for instance. If all the garments of a collection were produced only once for the show then as digital filters allowing people to try them on, brands could produce only the pieces chosen, rather than the entire collection… that often ends up unsold!
I have always been obsessed with technology and the extensions it allows on our bodies, minds or even on our working methods. So at one point, I decided I needed to learn more about wearable 3Ds, NFTs, the blockchain and all the community around it... It really is the future.
Today, you also work as a consultant for brands that want to get a launch into the web3. You sold several NFTs, made wearables, and did become an expert on the matter. But could you talk me through the creation of your first NFTs?
I spent the first lockdown in Pennsylvania, surrounded by friends who had been into tech and cryptos since the beginning. For the first time, life was slow which was profoundly different from the fashion rhythm I’m used to. It really was a breathing time and as I’m a maker and love learning new techniques, I first got into 3D software. I then discovered the concept of web3 and started creating NFTs. It was like encountering this new free creative space with no limits. I saw how it connected people, emulating a social life, and I immediately fell in love with the community and their mindset.
So I turned a picture I made for St. Laurent in a 10 Magazine’s editorial as an NFT and sold it in March 2021. At the same time, A Magazine Curated By was re-editing a 2004 numero made with Martin Margiela and were looking for an artist to redo the DIY sock sweater. As I already had made one before they asked me to do it and then launched it as an NFT.
The NFT was a video of the digital sweater, with an animation of purple butterflies, and it ended up on display at the Moderne Art Fair of October 2021.
Why did you choose the purple and the butterflies? It does seem to be two recurrent elements of your unique aesthetic.
The purple colour is the one that I use the most. It's the seventh colour of the chakra, the one open to the world, your mindset and your creativity. And the butterfly for me illustrates the metamorphosis and the regeneration and that is what upcycling is also. It's kind of the door to this new world we must begin to enter…
You currently work on a project titled My Baby Upcycling Web3TankTops, described on Instagram as the first upcycling wearable in the metaverse, could you explain to us what it consists of and how it came about?
I had collected all those vintage baby Dior items as they were cheaper, and did not make me feel as if I was destroying truly iconic pieces. I also loved the logo pattern, which allowed me to play along with the product’s hype.
A lot of people on my Instagram community asked me to buy my upcycled creations, but as most were really artisanal I didn’t feel like selling them. So I started a collection of saleable tank tops that could fit and appeal to a large number of people. I unsown the baby Dior items so as not to lose any fabric and made different sizing from the XS to the XXL. They all ended up quite different, with distinct logos and fabrics as I had to mix them to make the tops’ backs or sides. I then turned them into NFTs and wearable pieces on the metaverse to better explain my process, mindset and the new direction I’m launching my work into.
When you buy one of my NFT tank tops, you get the NFT, obviously, but you also get the physical piece and a wearable for your avatar in whichever metaverse you like. It’s what we call a phygital, a physical and a digital piece mixed together. And when you own my NFT, it also means you're part of my community!
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What do you mean by saying that owning one of your NFTs is being part of your community?
On the web3, your digital wallet is completely transparent, everyone can see your transactions and the NFTs you own. So to make a comparison, when you have a look at somebody's wallet, it’ll be a little bit like when adding somebody new on Instagram. You will first look at his followers, and the ones you have in common to evaluate which community someone belongs to. When you have an NFT, it’s a bit of that.
And through a community, you also get access to private experiences. For instance, if you own an NFT from Dolce & Gabbana’s wearable collection, you are then invited to the couture shows and can enjoy private tours of their atelier. So through my community you could for instance access some talks with collaborators or artists, I could be teaching how to sew a tank top or I don't know, I could even organise parties… They're just ideas! (laughs).
I’m currently working on creating this web3 community and I just finished building the team that will help me make this happen. The idea behind all that was not to resell my top, but rather to create a community sharing the same mindset and evolving on different virtual and physical platforms.
Why do you think that working as a team is something important for you and with whom would you see yourself moving forward in the metaverse?
I always loved sharing and collaborating with others. That’s also why I love upcycling so much, you share a couple of days with someone and together create a finished piece. And that is what I'm also trying to do now as a web3 model along with my workaholic girlfriends from the art and fashion world, who share the same values as me and want to be heard on the matter too.
It’s funny because we all ended up moving to 3D, NFTs and got interested in web3 at approximately the same time. So now, on top of Fashion Week, we have the NFT week where we go to conferences altogether. This metaverse girl community is still under construction and they don’t all have avatars yet but it’s going to be great and I’m more than excited about it.
Besides being an avatar in the metaverse, where do you see yourself in 10 years from now?
(Laughs) I’ll be living self-sufficiently, I hope, having an eco-house, growing my veggies and maybe even collecting my own water. Ten years is very long, so why not! I’ll be with my family, surrounded by my friends. Hopefully, fashion will have made a big move into sustainability and consuming and producing will have changed.
And I hope I’ll still have fun with my work, whether I’m creating garments, 3D or… even pottery or furniture, I don’t know. What matters for me is the underlying message, you know, it’s like the art of the Dada movement, there is always a political overtone. I’m a maker so I’ll definitely keep on crafting but there must be some meaning, an ethic, behind those creations!
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