Food and fashion joined forces at the NY Coalition for Healthy School Food’s “Healthy Food in Fashion” fall gala on Wednesday night, and Ecouterre was on the scene scoping out the hottest designs from the night’s vegan fashion show. We chatted with VPL designer Victoria Bartlett, who has been practicing and preaching cruelty-free fashion since the early days of her career. We also received the inside scoop on why animal products are verboten in her clothes, the significance of using human hair as accessories, and her favorite meat-free recipe.

VPL, Victoria Bartlett, Healthy Food in Fashion, vegan fashion, vegan clothing, vegan style, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, interviews

Tell us about some of your looks tonight and what inspired them?

Well, the looks are actually from the recent runway show in NY, and the whole collection is based on going back to the birth of our planet and on Darwin’s theories of how everything began…all the invertebrates and non-mammals, sort of pre-proper plant life. So in the back of the pink dress you’ve got all these layers which are kind of like the crinoids, which are these early fossils, and the wax [garment] is more of like a molluscullar silhouette.

I think people in fashion are very much sort of guided by food, as well.

So the collection sort of ties into biology, science and food?

Yes, exactly. Food, nature. Nature is something that’s always inspired me.

Speaking of food, since we are at the Healthy Food in Fashion Gala, do you think there is a connection between food and fashion?

Definitely. They both go in genres and I think people in fashion are very much sort of guided by food, as well. There’s trends and there’s tastes and there’s always genres of new cuisine. But there’s also health things, for me, I’m very regimented about what I eat. I’m very healthy with my food choices.

We can tell—you look great!

Aww, thanks! (Laughs.)

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VPL, Victoria Bartlett, Healthy Food in Fashion, vegan fashion, vegan clothing, vegan style, eco-fashion, sustainable fashion, green fashion, ethical fashion, sustainable style, interviews

We’ve covered your human-hair accessories before. Can you tell us about the message you were trying to send?

Well, [for those] I worked with these two Icelandic girls that I met when I was working with Björk. I’ve always wanted to work with hair to show that it could look like fur. People think it could be fur because it emulates it to some degree, but I wanted to show that you could achieve that luxury feeling without killing anyone. It’s an unnecessary thing. It’s like a vanity that you need to have fur. I understand a lot of people eat meat. I haven’t eaten meat in 28 years. I do eat fish and I do eat cheese. I couldn’t eat meat; it would make me sick. And I’ve always been a humanitarian. I’ve always done things like rescuing cats.

Instead of dictating to people, we need to offer the alternatives and help the industry change in that way.

Can you pinpoint the moment when you decided to focus on cruelty-free fashion?

Ever since I started, even as a stylist, I was known for not working with fur. In fashion, it’s very rare. Because fashion is inundated with that and people that sell the fur dangle the carrot in front of young designers and offer a lot of money [if they] use the furs. A lot of times, it’s ignorance and people don’t see things. They say if you had to eat meat and you had to kill it, half the people wouldn’t eat it. So people are in denial of cruel it is and how unnecessary it is. There’s a lot of fake fur and a lot of great alternatives and, instead of dictating to people, we need to offer the alternatives and help the industry change in that way.

What advice can you give young designers who want their clothes to be cruelty-free?

VB: I think it’s an easy thing to do. There are a lot of companies they can get sponsorships through and I think there’s more challenge in trying to find the alternatives and way to create that look with other techniques and I think it brings more talent. Rather than just taking the skin of an animal – I mean there’s nothing to it. There’s no thought.

What’s your favorite food?

I love Japanese food. I love sushi. I also like Japanese food like Kyotan food. Like soba noodles and tofu.

Care to share you favorite recipe with us?

My courgette risotto pie. [Place] thin slices of courgette on top of the cooked risotto with turmeric, saffron onions, and oil in a baking pan and bake!

+ Victoria Bartlett