She’s only 22 and Virginia Vallejo has already won the 5th and most recent edition of the Samsung Ego Innovation Project, an international competition which awards scholarships to the most innovative project which applies technology to fashion, be it the fabric, accessories or even the mise-en-scène.
The winning collection, “Lights and Shines”, can’t be seen in its entirety until the official show on the 23rd of February, next week. As she tells it, “I’m profoundly affected by my past as a gymnast, the inspiration for my latest collection (“Lights & Shines”) comes directly from everything I learned from sports: determination, effort, perseverance, and tenacity, united by the magic of Swarovski crystals and colorful fabrics like lycra, create a spectacular mix of luxury and sport chic.” Virginia, who studied at the Instituto Europeo di Design (IED, Madrid), focuses her attention on the little things, with the goal of transporting us to a world of illusion.
So Catchy! Where Fashion Begins can’t wait to finally see her collection, but in the meantime, here’s the interview she gave us recently.
SO CATCHY!: Congratulations on winning the Samsung Ego Innovation Project, Virginia. How does it fell? Did you expect to win?
VIRGINIA VALLEJO: Well, right now I’m not even sure I’m really aware of what is coming my way. I feel incredibly happy and, in a way, it’s like payback for all the work and effort that have gone into the last 5 years. I know that as an experience, it’s going to be incredible and I’ll never forget it, a personal experience that will be worth telling my children and grandchildren someday.
Professionally, this provides me with the incredible opportunity to show my collection to many of the people and professionals who I admire. I sincerely hope that they like it, but, as always, time will tell. I’m the kind of person who lives in the moment but I take each new project to the limit, and I never stop trying to push further, so I’ve got a good feeling and I’m convinced that the award will be a spectacular trampoline that will help get my name out there and share my vision of technology and fashion taken to the edge and more united than ever.
The truth of the matter is that I’m one of those people who listen to intuition and even though winning an award of this caliber, in a competition that all of Spain takes part in, I had the feeling that I was going to win. In fact, before I even found out about the jury’s decision, I was already working on the project. I believe in the idea that, if you can dream it, you can do it. It’s one of my mottos and I always try to keep it in mind when working. I’m an ambitious person who doesn’t believe in impossibilities.
SC!: Before winning the project, we don’t know much about your career. What have you been up to and can you tell us about some of your other work?
VV: In July I finished my studies in Fashion at the IED. For the last five years, everything has revolved around this. The large majority of my work was centered on styling, and I’ve always had a lot of admiration for people who give off an innate elegance, and for people who are able to transform any look with only a few accessories, or with different ideas about what their image should be. Styling is always an important part of my collections.
I won some honorable mention awards during that time for different projects, I’ve shown at South 36.32 and last year I was a finalist in MFshow Lab by Pandora, and one of my designs was shown at the dress museum. Up to now, that’s all; I hope I’m able to lengthen the list and to achieve new goals.
SC!: Apart from your studies, are you working freelance or interning with anyone?
VV: As soon as I finished my degree, I started interning with Sfera as a stylist. Once the internship ended, they hired me and now I’m part of the Marketing Online staff.
It’s been a very positive experience because I’m getting to see different sides of fashion that I didn’t know anything about and from different sides as well. I love my job and believe that, at some point in the future, if I ever start up my own brand, this experience will come in handy.
SC!: Tell us a bit about what we’re going to see on the catwalk on the 23rd of February. What is Lights and Shines?
VV: The proposal I’ve created for Samsung Ego Innovation Talent is only womenswear which takes on elements from the world of sports to create luxury clothing.
It’s pieces that are at once exclusive, daring, sophisticated, elegant, and sensual. Designed for women who are passionate about fashion and see clothing as another form of art. Women who dream and radiate originality and happiness, women who don’t mind being the center of attention, but who never lose the class and elegance that clothing such as mine requires.
Age isn’t important, just your desire to dream. I want ever model to elicit this response. Every piece will be unique and exclusive, every woman who wears one of my pieces will feel completely special.
The idea behind the colleciton, Lights & Shines, revolves around light, twinkles of light and the effect of movement, and around the specially chosen colors. All of the models fit perfectly to the body, defining the female silhouette, which is another concept from the world of sports. Other elements used to create the collection are sequins, Swarovski crystals, rockery, and more, which will help to illuminate the universe that I wish to evoke.
And finally, the styling will revolve around the accessories, which will be more than simple accessories and a blend between luxury, sport and electronic devices. Accessories made with customized tactile plastic, joined with the sporty fabrics and artisanal, Haute Couture embroidery.
The nexus between technology and fashion will be clear, as well as the contrast between analog and digital.
SC!: How did you come up with the idea? Was it a difficult process?
VV: When I was forced to leave the world of rhythmic gymnastics by injuries, I never thought that there would anything else that I would love as much. Gymnastics has made me who I am today and that’s why when I was thinking about what my first collection would entail, my other great love now, I knew that I wanted it to be a tribute to my past as an athlete.
From the beginning this has been the central axis of my project and the point from which my ideas developed. Everything was inspired by the sport, from the crystals fixed in place with adhesive tape and glue, one by one on the leotards, to the music, the tight, form-fitting fabrics which allow for a full range of movement, to the smell of the lacquer, the impossible ribbons, it all comes together in Lights & Shines.
The task was very complex; it’s a completely hand-embroidered collection made artisanally, utilizing eight different embroidery techniques, then there were the color studies for each of the pieces and finding the right professionals to produce them was an odyssey. I should also mention the economic side of things, the price of the crystals, and the other materials, is quite high in Spain and this was another impediment. In general, people don’t like to work on such ‘slow’ projects. I really would like to thank my mother for her efforts and the thousands of hours she dedicated to the project, without her collaboration, this project wouldn’t have got off the ground. She was deeply involved and spent many nights sewing, little by little, the different pieces of the suits.
And then there are all my other friends who embroidered, sewed or glued crystals like there was no tomorrow during these last few months.
It seems that bit by bit I was able to find a solution for everything and despite the stress and complications involved with these types of laborious projects, everything is coming together and I hope that the results are spectacular.
SC!: Which technology will dominate your pieces?
VV: In the show, the pieces won’t have any technology in them, I’m preparing some sport accessories where the tactile plastic plays an important part and which will be the protagonists, adapted exclusively for Samsung devices.
The really spectacular part as far as technology is concerned is the mise en scène, thanks to a collaboration with Bermudas Land, we’ll moving into hyper-reality with the use of 360º images in the Fashion Film from Samsung Gear VR, which will directly react to the movement and sound of the exhibition/
SC!: Where do you think fashion is headed?
VV: I couldn’t imagine designing a collection without taking into account technology these days. From the beginning of the process it can be an indispensible part of the puzzle.
Thanks to technology, I can tele-transport to any fashion show in the world, for example, so it can also be a source of inspiration when creating. This is why the symbiosis between these two elements, which are so different yet provide each other with so much feed back, is the future. The key will be in finding a perfect balance between the two, where the technological side, which oftentimes is anything but beautiful and where design is often ignored, can become beautiful and where fashion is no longer about simple esthetics, becoming more functional and complex.
SC!: We’re sure that you’re working like crazy now and tying up loose ends but, what are you going to do afterwards? How do you plan to invest the prize?
VV: These days have been quite crazy; the only thing I’m focused on is the show. I wake up and go to sleep thinking the same thing so I haven’t had enough time to reflect on what I’m going to do after. As always, I’ll wait to see what happens and what opportunities pop up. I can say that styling has been a love of mine in the world fashion and it would be a dream to be able to work for magazines like Harpers or Vogue, which are my favorites, using my designs and mixing them with other pieces by different designers would be amazing.
I think that, right now, designers and stylists aren’t very closely connected but I would love to be able to work in both simultaneously. The two can feed off of each other.
I also wouldn’t say no to working for Inditex. I think it’s a company with an amazing amount of reach around the world and it would be interesting to see how it works behind the scenes. I have some friends there and they tell me that it is incredible. I think I could learn a lot and it could help me towards some day starting my own label, which is another idea I wouldn’t write off. But for now, you’ve got to have some previous experience so that’s what I want to do after the show.
The money from the award has already been used up, I haven’t been able to pay for even half of the pieces in the show due to the cost of the high quality materials and the immense effort involved in production.
SC!: If you started your own label, what styles would we expect to see?
VV: As I said earlier, for now I want to get some experience in different fields and preferably with some important companies. After that, I wouldn’t mind starting my own label. I am, of course, one of those people who think that you can’t make everyone happy with your designs, and mine have a real personal touch to them. I wouldn’t make anything that I myself wouldn’t wear or which wasn’t a part of my style. I like the basics, everyday pieces together with others that are more ‘trendy’. It would probably be womenswear with high quality materials and, as I said, things that I would wear myself. I like the idea of luxury, exclusivity, quality and timelessness. These would be the focus of my pieces. Of course this doesn’t have much to do with “Lights & Shines” because the pieces would be more wearable, and more useful from day to day. For me, less is always more.
SC!: Which is your favorite label?
VV: If I had to choose only one label, it would be Hermés. It represents the philosophy of silence, of good taste, quality and tradition. And their bags are objects of desire for thousands of women around the world. I think it’s the most exclusive firm and that they must have a sensational marketing plan and powerful brand concept.
SC!: Fashion websites or blogs you follow?
VV: My five favorites are:
- The sartorialist
SC!: Which Instagram accounts should any lover of innovation in fashion be following.
- @c_l _o
SC!: Do you have anything else you’d like to share?
VV: I’d like to thank my parents for all of the trust they’ve given me, for the love and patience that they’ve had along this journey to where I am today, fulfilling my dreams. Without them I wouldn’t be who I am and I would have had the opportunity to show it.
I’d also like to mention IED, the university that was able to bring out the best in me and which supported me unconditionally from the beginning. I’m very lucky to have had the help of such a large and special team.
And of course, to every one of my friends who has collaborated on this project and helped me from the beginning, some of who believed in me even more than I believed in myself.
“Virtual” photos: Bermudas Land
Photo of Virginia: Alberto Díaz.
Embroidery photos: Alberto Diaz
Translation and Layout by Michael Padilla