Vanessa Gounden is a South African-born multitasker, working in everything from politics and business to what we're concerned about in this piece: fashion. She carefully pulled together the team and looks that sent her spring/summer 2011 Vanessa G collection down a London Fashion Week catwalk and hasn't looked back since.
Combining painterly prints directly inspired by specific works of art with timeless and structured tailoring, she opens up to us about her latest lines, aspirations for the brand in the future and why she left the Mandela administration to pursue her artistic dream.
From the SS12 campaign, featuring Amber Le Bon
The Vanessa G label seemed to launch out of nowhere in SS11's Fashion Week. How long had you been contemplating the move into fashion?
It has been a lifelong dream to have my own fashion label. So doing it by half measures was not an option. I had carefully planned and timed the launch of my brand to coincide with a personal milestone.
What inspires your choice behind the artwork that informs each collection's prints?
I travel a lot and often during my travels I become exposed to various global and/or topical issues. These issues affect our world and our lives thus inspiring my choices.
How did you end up selecting Ashish Soni as your Chief Design Offer? What about him felt like a good fit for Vanessa G?
I was aware and impressed by his work and technique, especially in bespoke tailoring for menswear. Having considered a few designers, I believed that he best understood my creative brief and vision.
We understand that you've worked in the mining industry, Mandela administration and now run a development trust, funding education for young South Africans. How do you reconcile the political, artistic and business-minded aspects of your personality when approaching fashion design?
I think it's more about complementary combinations rather than having to reconcile these traits. We are all complex human beings; some of us have an ability to express our talents in more than one avenue. I have a strong eye for beautiful things, and a gut intinct that I trust while my business acumen is an added advantage required for the business side of fashion. My strong views influence my choices with the creative direction of each collection and each season.
How much of an impact do you think your upbringing in South Africa has on your creative life now?
I would say a significant impact as it intrinsically linked to my identity; however I have become a global citizen taking cognisance of global matters that impact and shape our world.
Which do you feel are the stand-out pieces in your spring/summer 2012 collection, if forced to choose a few?
Yes, a difficult choice. Our signature trench coats and our strong stories really excite me. I think the Renewal capsule collection is strong yet not an obvious choice in fashion.
Finally, what are your hopes for the Vanessa G brand? What do you think it stands for?
The Vanessa G brand embraces strong women who are bold enough to make a statement with their garments. My hopes for the brand, is that it becomes one of the leading brands in the future and in so doing becomes the trend setter in bringing art and fashion together to enable garments to become wearable pieces of art. Hence [the name for the entire SS12 collection] Art’Outure.
See the rest of the collection, and Vanessa's past designs on the Vanessa G website.