Throughout Vanessa Seward’s first book, Le Guide de la Gentlewoman (JC Lattès), which arrived in bookstores this week, the amiable and accessible designer refers to (gentle) men who have set high standards – from style (Serge Gainsbourg, Prince Charles) to relationships (her father, her husband). Working in the studios at Chanel and Yves Saint Laurent; taking on the creative director title at Azzaro; then launching a namesake label, Seward has decades of industry experience and envisions future opportunities to design clothes once again. For now, as an author and artist – the book also showcases her illustrations and portraits – she has expanded her avenues of expression. And though she insists the voice in the book is an ‘alter ego,’ it speaks to a flourishing confidence in herself and how she might now inspire people — men and women — beyond the realm of fashion.
To what extent do you think fashion is about proposing/selling dreams? How might this have this have a positive effect on people?
Fashion is important in everyday life because clothes have the power to uplift you. They are a wonderful tool of self-expression and the quickest way to make a statement. They also have the power to give you confidence and help you to become the person you aspire to – just as actor prepares to play a part.
What is one trend or item of clothing that will define the coming year?
I have a feeling the waistcoat might become an item. I feel a boyish/feminine thing happening, somewhere in between Annie Hall and Loulou de la Falaise.
How does the image you have shared speak your dreams of fashion?
I painted this portrait of the late actress Sylvia Kristel during the confinement. I hadn’t dressed up or worn any makeup for weeks and I was feeling quite exposed. She represented all the seduction and determination I felt I was lacking. She became a kind of ideal alter ego – an obvious choice for the cover of my book. The Gentlewoman, of course, being an ideal alter ego.