boiMAG.com - Designer Interview with Laura Petrielli-Pulice for "Strut"
For those who don’t know you and who aren’t familiar with Vex Clothing, can you share a little history of the company and your design background?
I discovered latex while I was studying at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. With its unique qualities, I was naturally fixated on latex, an outlier to typical materials in fashion design. I studied under a local latex designer and haven’t looked back since.
For years, people have assumed that Vex is a big company with multiple designers and a huge production team. The truth is, Vex is me, and I am Vex. I began the brand before graduating college twenty years ago, and it has been my sole focus and passion sketching, designing and making each piece by hand in my Southern California studio with the help from my small team. Each piece created at the studio has a story, and for me, each piece I create is personal.
Vex has taken me to places I could have never imagined. I was a runner up on the Bravo fashion competition show, “Styled to Rock,” hosted by Rihanna. My pieces have been worn by icons of fashion, art, and culture, including Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Dita Von Teese. My work has found its way onto the pages of iconic magazines like W, Vogue, Interview Magazine, and more. Vex has become greater than I ever imagined or dreamed of when I first discovered latex.
In a world where cotton, silk, wool, denim and linen are so readily available and visible, how did you decide to work with latex?
When I began designing I dabbled with other materials since I was great at designing and sewing, but my latex pieces always sold the best. I saw I had a skill and loved the material. The look, feel and smell of latex is like no other. There is no greater feeling than seeing the right person discover latex.
In the early years, were your clients exclusively from the fetish community?
When I was in fashion school I trained and interned under a fetish latex designer. She was primarily designing for fetish interests, but since I was studying fashion I wanted to incorporate the material into my projects. I began playing with high fashion concepts using latex as the medium. It wasn’t something that many people were doing and I was on a path to being the first to cross over latex to high fashion. After I was on Rihanna’s Styled to Rock, I started connecting and networking in the industry. I was being recommended for different celebrity styling and design jobs. Over time my business and clientele has grown, but I have always had a mix of fashion, costuming and fetish.
Most people aren’t aware that the fetish community is a very large community. Please enlighten them.
You are right about that, the fetish community is huge and continuing to grow. Fetish fashion designers saw a big surge in business during 2020 pandemic times and I don’t think this is going to slow down. More people are discovering the fabric!
So now, your clients include a who’s who in music, television and fashion: Rihanna, Beyonce, Ariana Grande, Lady Gaga, the Kardashians and VOGUE Magazine. Since pulling off a great latex look is all about the fit, how do you design for someone like Beyonce, and what is the fitting process like?
The custom fitting process requires a lot of detail, time and adjustments. I’ll collect measurements for the perfect form fit and then typically be on set making final adjustments.
Stars don’t end up on “Best Dressed” lists or suffer through the flashes of 50 cameras on a red carpet by playing it safe. Where does your inspiration for design come from? Do you design with certain people in mind?
Inspiration comes from a lot of different places for me, but my mind works best when it’s a challenge. When there is a concept in mind, but I have no idea how I’m going to make it happen. One of my favorite creative creations was Lady Gaga’s octopus outfit with all the tentacles.
I’ve always believed that fashion should excite, inspire, charge the imagination and make one feel like the baddest person in the room.
On the runway, it should make the crowd smile and quietly say, “You better walk bitch.” Does it still do that for you?
Absolutely. The way it can transform your body and your mind is so unique.
The partnership between fashion and HIV/AIDS education was inevitable. STRUT is celebrating its 12 year anniversary. This will be your 3rd time showing on its runway. Your support has meant more than you can imagine. Is there a particular reason for the support?
I love working with STRUT because of the important work you do for the community. Vex’s community is made up of so many diverse people from different backgrounds and different experiences. Our designs represent breaking barriers and being able to fully show up as yourself. It’s important to me as a business owner to show up and support those that need it.
Well thank you Laura. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you. I’m excited about your future, and I can’t wait to see the STRUT models in your garments again. Please let everyone know how to get in touch with Vex Clothing.