Vanessa Seward or the discreet charm of the bourgeoisie
Following capsule collections with A.P.C., Vanessa Seward launched her own brand in March with a timeless first collection that is just as elegant, reserved and distinguished as its designer.
Artistic director at Azzaro from 2003 to 2011, Argentine-born Vanessa Seward toned down the iconic glamour for which the brand’s flamboyant founder was famous, but without, however, undermining it. More restrained, fresh and classic all at once, Seward’s take on the Azzaro style included trousers and day wear, which were rather inhabitual in this temple of red-carpet stunners. With feminine delicatesse, she added her own touch, the modesty and absolute sincerity of her own personal look finding their way into the collections.
In a similar manner, the capsule collections she designed for Jean Touitou’s A.P.C. brand from autumn/winter 2012–13 to summer 2015 were imbued with this same timeless elegance, comprising very easy-to-wear garments that were a great success. Now, with the same approach in mind, Seward is launching her own label, in partnership with A.P.C. “After the shows in March last year, Jean Touitou asked me if I wanted to do it,” she explains at the A.P.C headquarters in Paris’s Rue Madame. “It was something I’d already been thinking about when I was at Azzaro, but I didn’t want to launch myself on my own as a young designer. It had to work. I was very lucky to find the perfect partner.”
Shown in March this year, Seward’s first eponymous collection includes knee-length skirts, sensible yet ravishing blouses, and coloured and printed dresses that are very simple and very feminine. Her roll-neck sweaters, wraparound skirts, capes and Ascot bows all add a very 70s note. But the 1970s as interpreted by Seward celebrate not the more outlandish fashions of the era but rather the perfect proportions that were incarnated in the timeless, radiant elegance of a Lauren Hutton. “I like this period a lot, but I would never make a pair of flared jeans. What I take from the 1970s are certain perfect looks that could be totally contemporary today. I don’t like things that have strong connotations or that class a woman in a certain category. Be it bourgeois bohemian or rock chick, I’m not into ready-made looks or outfits that disguise the wearer. That’s why I buy a lot of vintage for myself. I like a woman who tells her own story, rather than one that a brand has written for her.”
By telling her own story and developing her own look, Seward has created a neo-bourgeois attitude of evident generosity that finds its source in her natural reserve, and also in her deep knowledge of clothing, as opposed to a cult of fashion. The simplicity of her pieces reflects her tastes: tying an Ascot bow or a white scarf over a black dress coat, wearing high boots under a skirt to unify the silhouette and hide the knee, and so on. “The question of knowing how to wear clothes fascinates me,” she continues. “You really have to know how to gauge, compose and balance your silhouette.” All of which is demonstrated in her high-waisted “Victoire” jeans, cigarette-cut rather than “skinny,” which during her runway show had the names of each model embroidered on the back pocket. It was a touch of whimsy that balanced out this first collection and demonstrated Vanessa Seward’s ability to bring subtle sophistication to everything she touches, like a fairy of chic waving her wand over the women she dresses.
By Delphine Roche, photo by Mélanie & Ramon, styling by Camille-Joséphine Teisseire