For over twenty years, Vanessa Bruno's simple and refined creations have helped her achieve extraordinary success. This season, the designer has chosen to set her sights on leather. Find out more in our interview.
MONNIER Frères: It was your tote bag that first made you a success. Can you tell us a little about the origins of this now-iconic bag?
Vanessa Bruno: I still can't believe the success of this bag. It came from a really spontaneous idea: I just had my daughter and I needed a practical bag. I was riding a bike and I needed a spacious tote bag to carry my stuff, the children's stuff and the things I needed for work. It came from there, from my way of life.
M.F.: How do you explain the longevity of this piece?
V.B.: I can't explain it to be quite honest. Every day I am amazed, I still see women and girls wearing it. I think there's something very democratic about it, because I've managed to make lots of versions in different colours and different materials, which means that girls can adapt it to suit them. In the way they experience it, the way they wear it. And I also think it’s shape is pretty timeless; it's extremely elegant and practical but also has a playful and decorative side with the sequins.
M.F.: How is the piece made?
V.B.: The canvas for the tote bags comes from France and the linen from Belgium. Whether linen or cotton, they are made in a workshop near Paris, with which we have worked since the outset.
M.F.: Your raffia bags, however, are created in Madagascar. How did this collaboration come about?
V.B.: The raffia tote bag is very different. It is hand-crafted and I really needed to work with a factory that had access to the raw material on site and was able to work with the raffia by hand.
M.F.: Is it important to you that your pieces are made in France?
V.B.: Yes, it's very important. It has often been suggested to me to get my tote bag made elsewhere, but I said no. It was created here. Also, it's a result of teamwork and I think it's important that it continues to be manufactured in France. Everything is made in France, even the sequins.
M.F.: This season, you're putting an emphasis on leather. Why the sudden change?
V.B.: We've always had leather. Suede too. But I think it might be related to the new range of colours I've created, as well as the new eyelets. I feel like it's getting a new lease of life, a new youth! And it's doing very well right now.
M.F.: Who is Vanessa Bruno as a woman?
V.B. : She is a difficult woman who likes to wear easy clothes. By this I mean I like a certain French elegance, an extremely relaxed Parisian chic, a certain nonchalance with a bohemian feel. In all this, there's the very important issue of well-being; feeling happy with the woman you are in your clothes, treating them like a second skin.
M.F.: When it comes to ready-to-wear, you were at the head of a secondary line, Athée, which you cancelled a few years ago. How did you manage to refocus your message to make it unique?
V.B.: Whether Athée or Vanessa Bruno, it was always the same woman for me. They are not different women. I launched the Athée line fairly early because I wanted to do something a little more casual and slightly more affordable for certain materials. To tell the truth, we realised that having two lines is complicated and confuses our message. And I had a lot of customers who, based on the way they dressed, were picking things from Athée as well as from the main line. Finally, I decided that the simplest thing to do would be to put everything under one label and create a complete collection.
M.F.: You also haven't organised a catwalk show for a few seasons now, opting for presentations instead. Why is that?
V.B.: I've been doing presentations of collections for over twenty years and the important thing for me as a designer is to always enjoy what I do.
For me the catwalk shows had become something extremely... it was too much. I didn't have time for creation anymore. Eventually, I just though, "Why am I doing all this?”. I am an independent brand, we're a small team and I felt it was important for me to stop and get my breath back, a breath of fresh air, creatively speaking. So I decided I'd rather stop. But I can always do something else tomorrow. Press presentations, installations, working with artists, and also trying to explore the magic of a space through music or video, has always been a universe I am comfortable working in.
M.F.: You are not the first person to mention the fast pace of fashion. Do you think that in ten years there will be a lighter industry, where catwalks are less common?
V.B.: I think everyone expresses their own creativity. I decided to stop because I felt suffocated by the pace of the work and the most important thing for me is to have fun doing your job. That way, your customers feel like you're offering them a moment of happiness, a creative moment, they feel good in your clothes, they embrace and enjoy wearing them. I felt that catwalk shows were taking us to a place where we were forgetting that side of fashion just to please the press. It works for some people. There are people who need to organise fashion shows because that's how they best express themselves and I think that's great, there are some beautiful shows. We must never forget that in the end we’re all here to feel good in our skin, to be beautiful and to take the time to enjoy our clothes, to wear them. And that's what I'm trying to do with my teams. I'll leave the madness of the race to others!