PARIS — “Remember when Jerry Hall was dating Bryan Ferry in the Seventies? English country meets American glam? I love that style,” said Vanessa Seward, pointing to the retro-inspired mood board of the first ready-to-wear collection she has designed under her own name, slated to launch today.
There is an image of Bianca Jagger in a white-and-black ensemble that Seward referred to as “gaucho-chic,” as well as an old picture of her Argentine mother stretching in an English tweed jacket. “My father was a diplomat and we moved to London in the Seventies. There was plenty of fox-hunting going on, and my mom hated it, so she would always dress in high boots and a nice skirt and sit by the fire,” Seward recalled, noting that the aesthetic stuck with her. “I don’t do it on purpose, but it’s just a part of me, and when you start a new label, you need to put your own [stamp] on it.”
With the 28-piece lineup, Seward, who learned the ropes assisting Loris Azzaro, said she is aiming for a certain neutrality. “I don’t like it when you can tell what tribe the girl belongs to — is she a boho or a rock chick?” the designer said. “I always say I make fashion for the pedestrian woman who has to walk a lot, hop on the metro and take her child to the playground.”
Consequently, the line is built on basics — much like the ones she designed as a capsule for APC for the past three years — only slightly more upscale and mixed with clues from her personal archives, which are said to be overflowing with vintage items from her time at Yves Saint Laurent and Chanel, where she was in charge of accessories. “What I like about vintage is that it’s not overdesigned. It’s more about the cut and the fabric. Sometimes it’s a cuff or a sleeve that gets me inspired. I need these pieces close to me,” Seward said.
The debut collection will feature A-line skirts, high-waisted raw denim pants, tweed cape coats and silk blouses printed with patterns from the Abraham archives, which had also been frequented by Saint Laurent and Hubert de Givenchy. Prices will range from $265 for a shirt to $780 for a coat, with only a few more extravagant items such as a long evening dress ($1,250) and a shearling number ($3,380) as outliers.
“There is no trick,” said Jean Touitou, APC’s creative director, who is also the majority shareholder of the Seward brand, about the niche-price value. “We work as an army of people with the right know-how.” His other secret is production. Touitou said although he could not afford to have the line made in France, he charmed a connection at French high-end manufacturer Marty into using its co-owned atelier in Eastern Europe.
Connections also landed a soundtrack for the show. It was composed for Seward by her husband, music producer Bertrand Burgalat, and features a track called “Vanessa’s Way,” with lyrics and vocals from April March. “We’re taking the holistic approach,” mused Touitou.
Touitou and Seward’s joint venture (she is also chief executive officer) gives a solid structure to the young label. Unlike with other brands, where last-minute changes are routine, the Seward line has been ready for months; it was shown in January to retailers, including Net-a-porter, Le Bon Marché and the Maria Luisa boutique at Printemps. A precollection is slated to be in stores by June, with the main line available by July when the brand’s Web site will launch.
Seward has also designed a range of accessories, including six shoe styles, five bags and jewelry done in collaboration with Edgard Hamon. The leatherwork on the saddle-shaped bags is especially noteworthy, having been hand-painted and hand-rolled by Tuscan specialists to achieve a rippled effect.
Two Paris flagships are slated to open by September: One in Saint-Germain and the other in Saint-Honoré, with a third boutique to open in January in New York’s SoHo. Noted Touitou: “We would be happy if the brand reached the same level as APC,” which in 2014 had sales of $55 million.