Vanessa Gounden’s Debut Collection launches at Banqueting House

by Katie on March 28, 2011

Last Thursday evening, Vanessa Gounden presented her debut collection for Autumn/Winter  2011 in the swish setting of the Banqueting House in Whitehall.  

Oh and what a launch it was!  Opulent, lavish and swathed in black and red light and fittings  and, despite it being ‘simply the best’ party with overflowing Veuve and vodka (moi?  complain?), the sheer scale of ostentatiousness, the myriad celebs (Jade Jagger, Jade Parfitt, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Jasmine Guinness, Emilia Fox) and the OTT production level of the show itself which was more a presentation and a ‘theme’ than a catwalk show, threatened to swamp the real message:  the global launch of a new brand and the clothes themselves.

That’s not to say the clothes were without merit, there were quite literally flashes of fresh, beautiful boldness that could have been relayed a tad more quietly, letting the brilliance of original print, colour clashes and memorable silhouettes work the brand more than the ‘catch a fleeting glimpse’ production level, set in a square where you had to see behind as well as to the front and sides of the audience.  The whole message was of  ‘too much going on’, I’m afraid and that’s a great pity.  I can image the textures and colours close up will be quite something and look forward to seeing them.

Gounden managed to combine gorgeous ultra light touches of Erdem originality (colour, print, elegance, simplicity of structure) with some frightening and ill at ease Caroline Charles flashes of mid length skirts (sorry, not buying the hype in these this season) and vivid green, oddly paired coats which were far more ‘The Lady’ than It-Girl.   

Styling was by Cathy Kasterine and we all know what a wonder this stylist is, so I can only surmise that the clashing was intentional.  For me, it was a juxtaposition too far, as much of customer types as of dissimilarity within the collection which was truly original in that it featured original South African artworks which lined the interiors of suits, skirts and pants crossing the boundaries of fashion and art.  Gounden urged us to ask pertinent questions in the process: what is Art to you? Where do you see it? Is it in the fusing of textiles? Is it in the layering of graphic prints and photographic art?

Splash print floral dresses and skirts, crop jackets with long line trousers and this season’s penchant for colour blocking provided the backbone of the collection.

The creative philosophy behind the label is wearable art ‘from Conception to Creation’. The beauty of hand woven, hand finished and hand-made techniques transform each limited edition piece into a collectible unique item. Each item in the collection is the product of an intricate process sometimes requiring multiple stages of detailing. Processes involve painting over the designs to accentuate finer nuances, seamstresses working on the intricate detailing and the creation of 3D elements in embroidery and textures.

Vanessa’s debut collection incorporated and reflected the tapestry of her life’s experiences which include being an activist in the transformation process in South Africa, a formidable entrepreneur and a philanthropist.  And now, designer is added to that list.

I have no doubt that Vanessa Gounden realises that the globally aware, sophisticated consumer of today now looks to buy products in line with responsible labour law and Fair Trade practices with environmentally accountable organisations. In producing a collection with distinct design led detailing as well as principles, Gounden is targeting the fashion consumer who wears her (he)art on her sleeve to support Fair Trade while simultaneously supporting South African artists.

We are told that every “Vanessa G” garment endeavours to be a piece of art, an ultimate statement of luxury. Art’Outure – The luxurious expression of Art and Fashion.  That may be the case, but fashion savvy consumers need to see trends created, newness and to feel a shiver of excitement at the prospect of a collection being unveiled each season not just  the after party.

Please let me know what you think of it and the collection.  I’d be interested to hear from you.  Vanessa G’s collection can be seen HERE on her website.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Duck March 28, 2011 at 7:40 pm

Well you already know what I think… That lack of newness makes me think she won’t be much more than a flash in the pan.



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