SOUTH AFRICAN ENTREPRENEUR AND OWNER OF LUXURYBRAND STORE D’ORÉ VANESSA GOUNDEN INCLUDES A FASHION LABEL, VANESSA G LONDON, AMONG HER MANY ACCOMPLISHMENTS. SHE TALKS TO US ABOUT BREAKING THE MOULD AND THE BUSINESS OF STYLE
iwas a free-spirited child: living each day with abandon and a huge sense of curiosity. I grew up on a smallholding where my family had lived for generations; we supplied roses to district florists. I was surrounded by a big family, which gave me support and confidence, but also encouraged a healthy competitiveness. I was a tomboy, always aiming to experience everything first-hand, whether riding a bicycle around for hours or selling cans to make some extra pocket money. My entrepreneurial skills developed early because I was constantly looking for opportunities. I knew I wanted success, but not just materialistically: I wanted to break the mould. My family was forcibly removed from their land and their livelihood when I was young. Seeing my parents and grandparents live through that experience helped spark my political consciousness.
I am drawn towards style, so fashion was always on the cards for me. From a young age I had an eye for detail. I loved dressing up. I find creative endeavours rewarding, which is how I came to establish my fashion brand, Vanessa G London. Style should reflect the inner beauty of a woman. Women must have a sense of confidence, elegance and pizzazz. Coco Chanel is a muse because she had the foresight to see how women’s lives were changing and how their style needed to change with them. I think of fashion as art, and I bring that perspective to Vanessa G London. Fashion and music are my two passions. Fashion is food for the soul, like music: if I listen to Bruce Springsteen or Queen I feel the embrace of an old world. I am something of a rock ’n’ roller, but I’d describe my personal style as conservative with glamorous and classical touches.
Being by myself for a little while during the day is important – that ‘me-time’ to reflect, listen to music or just catch up on the news. It’s how I keep my finger on the pulse of what’s happening, which in turn has carried my business and my brand. I’m driven. I’d like to go into an early retirement, but my personality won’t allow it. In the next few years, I wish for my life, my family and my business to grow. I love beauty, art and travel. I encourage women to travel because it opens the mind to opportunities. I want women in South Africa to start prioritising what’s important: from moments of personal greatness to family and making headway in their careers. Nothing comes without hard work, commitment and dedication. I do what’s necessary, and challenge what’s impossible. My favourite quote of Nelson Mandela’s is: ‘It seems impossible until it’s done.’ Don’t stop dreaming big, and as I learnt as a young woman from a farm near Queensborough: always have flair.
Pictured Vanessa Gounden at home, with some of her favourite art and fashion pieces collected from South Africa and abroad.