Cape-made couture takes to Paris catwalk
Behind the glamour of one show at Paris Fashion Week was a team of garment workers from the other end of the world
Tailor Victor Terblanche quietly shed tears of pride as he watched svelte models sashay down the runway wearing the latest designs of South African fashion designer and businesswoman Vanessa Gounden at Paris Fashion Week.
For two weeks the garment-maker from Delft, Cape Town, and more than 30 colleagues had worked tirelessly to ensure that every bead, stitch and seam was perfect in the Africa Rising collection they were tasked with producing for Gounden’s showing in the French capital last week.
The VG Atelier team — seamstresses, cutters, beaders, printers and tailors — were the people behind Gounden’s 40 powerfully structured statement suits and majestic Africanthemed gowns. Since Gounden launched the label in 2011, her wearable-art garments have graced celebrities such as Princess Charlene of Monaco, Nomzamo Mbatha, Pearl Thusi, Orange is
the New Black actress Dascha Polanco and James Bond beauty Naomie Harris.
Gounden, who also heads Holgoun Investment Holdings, opened her first store in London’s Mayfair district three years ago.
For Terblanche it was a proud moment when the world’s fashion brigade cast their eyes on the collection.
“As a tailor and a supervisor it takes a lot out of you because you must be everywhere, ensuring that everything is up to mark.
“We were under a lot of pressure because we like our garments to be perfect. But we pulled it off. Sometimes it makes you cry, because you can’t believe what you have done. It ends up all over the world and famous people wear our work. We feel incredibly proud, there are no words to describe it,” said Terblanche.
Esmerelda Hartzenberg, a pattern cutter, said she was bursting with pride when she watched the show.
“Ours is not ordinary fashion, our garments are works of art. Seeing our work in Paris and at other fashion weeks like New York and London has given many of us a confidence boost. “I feel good about myself knowing I made a contribution.” Ferial Meyer, who oversees VG Atelier, said being part of the operation made her realise that “you can compete with the rest of the world, and be good at it”.
Speaking from London, Gounden told the Sunday Times her Africa Rising collection is an “artistic dedication to the rise of African society from being previously oppressed during colonial occupation to its prosperous rise in the global market”.
“I believe I’m only as good as the people that surround me,” said Gounden. “I have an amazingly talented team that I have invested in over the years to create quality garments, and who never says no to a new challenge. The quality of my garments speaks to the quality of my team who are responsible for making my vision a reality.
“Engineered prints are extremely complicated when it comes to the construction of a garment. It is time-consuming and challenging to everyone in the work-flow stream involved in the creation of these pieces, from graphic artists to pattern makers, pattern graders, printers, cutters, seamstresses and quality controllers. Most importantly, a very competent management team,” Gounden said.