What happens when the Queen of New York City Cool collaborates with the designers who are creating garments from the future King of England’s garden nettles?
It was always going to be special, it had to be, but VIN+OMI exceeded all expectations when they launched HOPE, their aptly named collection with none other than Debbie Harry.
“She is first and foremost a cult icon,” opened VIN+OMI in the discussion of their partnership, and friendship with Blondie:
“But what matters much more is that we get along very well and laugh a lot. It’s a very easy-going process.
It’s never inspiring when you don’t get along with your collaborator. We’ve had to say no [to collaborations] many times, often because celebrities are out of their comfort zone, or they have the wrong people around them, which interferes with the creative process. Too many creative egos never work”.
This collection is the first part of an ongoing wider fashion collaboration with Debbie Harry. Debbie is involved at every stage. We have collaborated with many people and companies, but she is always very respectful of the designer. She knows how collaborations work”.
Harry’s devotion to the label is already no secret. Vin met Debbie through mutual friends while living in New York before the designers created Blondie’s stage outfits for events across the world, including the Q Awards in 2016, where the singer debuted their ‘Stop Fucking The Planet’ cape. Then, in 2018, Debbie made a surprise appearance when she opened VIN+OMI’s show ahead of Fashion Week; marking her first show in London.
“It was a great moment hearing the crowd go wild when she walked out. We had a lot of fun that day” VIN+OMI shared.
“Her band member from Blondie, Matt Katz-Bowen, also walked in the show, and their sound guy made our music. We were very flattered she chose our show over all the others- she gets many offers”.
There needs no explanation as to why, in 2020, we can only reminisce over the crowds of London Fashion Week. This is, after all, a year that changed every element in the fashion industry. There seems, therefore, no more poignant time for Debbie Harry and VIN+OMI to launch HOPE, the teaser of their wider collaboration, which was created as a reflection of the uncertain period we are currently facing.
“We wanted to keep it simple and focused on the word hope. We all need hope in 2020. Hope that the virus is eliminated, hope that the right president of the US is chosen. Hope that we care”.
Above all, however, VIN+OMI have hope for a more sustainable planet, which is, and was central to the label’s ethos, even before the pandemic broke earlier this year. Their collaboration with Debbie Harry is certainly no exception, as the designers revealed how they create their entire collection from blends of reclaimed cotton and recycled plastic polyester fabrics.
“Recycled cotton is sorted into colours and then shredded into fibres and reformed into new textile. Recycled Polyester (rPET) is made from taking waste polyester and transforming it into plastic flakes, then pellets, then yarn and then made into rPET fabric.”
The HOPE collection, which consists of two eco t-shirts and hoodies stem entirely from these materials, as both VIN+OMI and Debbie Harry are devoted to the ever-important fight against plastic pollution- a problem which continues to rise.
“Our hope is to draw attention to the harmful effects of plastic in our environment, which is damaging human health, marine life & habitats, littering beaches and landscapes, clogging waste streams and landfills” began Harry, in her discussion of HOPE’S sustainable pieces:
“We hope to educate & empower people to make a difference towards helping adjust human attitudes and behaviours about plastics while reducing global plastic pollution.”
While VIN+OMI make waves alongside rock royalty, they also continue to work alongside a particular member of the British Monarchy, Prince Charles. Yes, the same duo who are designing hoodies with Blondie spent their lockdown on Zoom with the Prince of Wales, who had opened his back garden to the designers so they could create fabric from his weeds.
“Part of this project is to look at large country estates and to see what plant and other waste they have and to see if we can recycle it” VIN+OMI began.
“Prince Charles invited us down to explore what we could make from the waste materials on his Highgrove Estate. We developed a new nettle fabric after collecting thousands of his waste nettles.
We were also invited to dinner [with Prince Charles] just before lockdown, which was a great experience.”
Despite the differences in collaborating with Debbie Harry and working with Prince Charles, two crucial things remain the same. The first is the creative process, and the second is a “Jägermeister Cocktail”, which is the drink that VIN+OMI would serve both royal figures if they were to host a party.
“We design organically” began VIN+OMI when asked whether they work primarily with their materials, or with the silhouette.
“Sometimes it’s the fabric, sometimes the cut, sometimes a political message. We are constantly developing textiles, so we often use new ones in our collection”.
Whatever the creative process, one thing is clear- If the HOPE teaser is anything to go by, then the rest of the VIN+OMI X Debbie Harry collection is here to save 2020, and we’ll find a way of getting our hands on it, one way or another.
Want to read more about the sustainable practices of VIN+OMI?
Check out our previous interview with VIN+OMI, where they discuss their admiration for the work of Sue Dray, and their friendship with Pandemonia. The designers also expand on their love for “the colours of SYRETT, the darkness of Gary McQueen, the precision of Evi Antonio, and the mystery of French Cowboy”.
Interview by Megan Slack– Contributing Editor at Magazine by Runway Gallery