Let’s face it, VPL (visible panty lines) are usually something we’d prefer to avoid. But when underwear looks this good, it’s hard not to want to show it off. Since launching over a decade ago, the brand now focuses mostly on activewear, and we’re pretty happy they have: with small nods to lingerie, this is the kind of activewear you want to wear all day long, workout or not!
Not only does VPL offer beautifully designed clothing, but it’s clothing with meaning. Using sustainable practices, VPL upcycles their materials, fabric left over from productions, in order to eliminate fabric waste. The money saved from using upcycled materials funds their social initiatives, including women’s education around the world. Instead of fast fashion, the brand aims to create timeless pieces, designed and manufactured by women working in factories offering fair wages. When putting on a VPL piece, you can rest assured that it’ll make you feel as good on the inside, as it makes you look on the outside. We talked to Kikka, the owner and CEO of the brand about her vision for this brand.
Who are you?
Kikka Hanazawa Owner / CEO of VPL
What inspires you?
Beautiful products with functional and social purposes, and the companies or people who make them.
Who is the VPL girl?
She is a modern, independent, intellectually curious woman who is active in many ways – social, physical and political. Maybe entrepreneurial, creative or great Mom. She makes socially conscious, informed decisions on what to buy / not to buy—everything from automobile to food to fashion. Perhaps she may be too restrained from emotional impulse shopping except when she is online!
VPL is a social enterprise, could you explain why you chose to do this and how it works?
VPL’s original idea was wearing underwear out. It was a minority concept, but then it became strong fashion statement with emergence of active clothing that replaced whatever we were wearing before. Four years ago we started reengineering our underwear to be performance oriented and sourced the right fabric to meet the change in women’s modern lifestyle. But we rejected a traditional notion of activewear to be made in cheap fabric and garments made in sweat shop in South East Asia, which is what we were told to do at the beginning. We decided to source fabric from US, Italy and Japan and rather pay fair wages to employees in California for small production. I wasn’t sure about paying $2-3 a garment made in Bangladesh if I had to make 10,000 units and 9900 units unsold in the warehouse. The math did not add up, it’s just too much waste. It has taken us two years to train factories in New York and California to make our garments just right.
VPL is a social enterprise. It took us a long time to declare that our social mission is actually more important than, let’s say, colors and trends of the season– and everything by the way should revolve around the mission not around the fashion trends, cycle and fashion show calendar. But had we done this 10 years ago, we would not have been taken seriously in New York’s fashion scene (today it seems easier with emergence of other social enterprise fashion companies). I frankly feel if we cannot fulfil our social mission through business, I might as well just focus on running my non-profit Fashion Girls for Humanity 100% of my time.
What is the importance of being a sustainable clothing brand?
I feel that today’s consumer is very educated, and with so many options given, they want to buy from the brand or company that offers not just good design products but more…a lot more. The brand /company should pay fair wages to factory workers, minimises waste, and maximises values to the society as a whole. It might be a utopia vision, but I hope it works!
We upcycle fabric left over from production to eliminate fabric waste, which is quite significant due to various reasons including fabric minimums imposed by mills, trends, colours, design and pattern inefficiency. Textile industrial pollution is a centuries old problem, and it causes significant damage to our eco system. One way to address is for consumers to buy less clothes, especially from fast fashion retailer. For us, the saving from upcycling fabric, approximately 20% of our cost, will be used to fund women’s education around the world. I will be happy to take other brands’ leftover fabric if anyone wants to donate. We have developed a unique design, colour schemes and patterns that enable us to accommodate different fabrics in various colours.
Where do you see yourself/brand in 5 years’ time?
We will start one person at a time, but I hope we can contribute to social change by creating education opportunity for women
What’s the one item every woman should have in her wardrobe?
What are your style tips for dressing to the gym?
VPL Insertion Bra + X-Curvate Legging + Exertion Tank
What’s your favourite healthy snack?
Japanese or Korean seaweed snack
What do you indulge in on a cheat day?
What’s your workout of choice?
Swim, SUP, surfing, yoga, barre, skateboarding and kayak
Do you have any fitness goals you would love to achieve?
I’d like to do triathlon
What do you do to relax?
We have organized outdoor zen meditation and yoga class with Toni Vincenzo in Santa Monica on every third Wednesday of the month. We love zen meditation which I did when I was growing up.
If there was a soundtrack to your life, what song would be playing right now?
Recently it’s been a David Bowie mix