2010 June 22

Summer Designer Series: Vanessa Bruno

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(NEW YORK) Quintessentially Parisienne designer Vanessa Bruno has been in business for nearly 15 years, developing clients on either side of the Atlantic with her eponymous line and bridge line, Athé. But if you’ve been hearing more Stateside buzz than usual about the platinum-coiffed chicette, it’s not for naught: the brand will open its first U.S. boutique in Los Angeles in July. In our latest installment of the Summer Designer Series, The Daily chatted with Bruno from her Paris studio about her favorite new film project, why L.A. has the right spirit, why she’s not just a designer for les françaises.

Why did you decide to open in L.A.?
It was quite natural for me to start there. The spirit of California has always been a spirit I work on in my collections. The L.A. style of life corresponds very well. It’s urban but relaxed. There’s the laid-back girl and the healthy thing I like. It was more obvious for me to start there. I have girls in mind, like Angela Lindvall and the girls from Sofia Coppola’s The Virgins Suicides. The culture, what we call in French the contre culture, is very important there, and that's all been a background of my work. I love some of the songs from the late ‘70s. In L.A., even the color, washed and paled from the sun, has that spirit.

Why is now the right time to open the store?
I think my brand came to a certain maturity, and a lot of girls have been waiting. Sometimes I meet Americans here in Paris who say they have to get something here from my store before they leave! I still want to keep it really exclusive, so it was important to find the right place.

Will it carry both Vanessa Bruno and Athé?
No, only Vanessa Bruno.

Do you think you’ve been embraced by the American market, or are you seen as a strictly French brand?
I’m French, so it’s very Parisian. But my mother is Scandinavian, my father’s Italian--I’m a melting pot! This brand is about urban poetry, and it's what you put into it. I do easy clothes for sophisticated girls.

Both your parents worked in the fashion industry. Did that prepare you for the business?
My mother was a model and my father worked in prêt-a-porter, so I was raised and educated with a taste of fashion. My mother took me around the States. We had to get our Oshkosh jeans and Indian skirts and bracelets. When I started my brand, it wasn’t about the fashion of the moment, it was about what girls want to wear. I always had in my mind my mother and her friends and how they liked to dress. There was an ease, but it was sophisticated. They weren’t trying that hard, but it was refined. I don’t think they prepared me for the business so much, but out of three kids I’m the only one who got into fashion, so it’s more about my sensibility as a women.

Tell us about your film project with Lou Doillon and Gonzales. How did that begin?
I worked on the music and photos. I’ve done installation art when I’ve presented, so film was a natural path to explore. I was excited about it, the idea of creating an emotion on top of the clothes. I wanted to be able to project that with a film. When you see the last movie of Lou, she’s being a little crazy, then she’s crying to classical music, she's laughing---I wanted to express that this is what a girl is about. We’re all those different emotions at one time. Fashion has a way of making things look very cold and inhuman, so I want to show real girls.

Why do you think so many fashion brands are jumping into film?
It’s communicating in a different way. The internet is very important; it’s a way of getting things out to people without going into a store.

Who is the Vanessa Bruno customer?
I’m not into an age thing. I’m talking again about the spirit of a women. I love to wear those clothes because I feel like it’s me. I’m designing for my roots and what I have inside of me, but then I can see that it’s a message that’s very direct to other women.

Who are your fashion icons?
Lou [Doillon] is one of them. She gives a dimension, that the brand has to be, we say in French, incarnée. Lou is very modern. She’s effortless and very sophisticated. She has this thing that we say: avoir l’allure.

You’ve been in business for nearly 15 years. What's next?
I’m not really good at that question. I can project some things, like opening more stores in the right places---like I’m opening in London in September, and that’s nice. If along the way a development of cosmetics or perfumes comes, that’s nice, but I’m not projecting; it’s just on the way for me. We’ll see. It’s amazing what’s happening, and I’m just glad people go and buy in the stores. It’s not just a concept, but they feel attached to it.

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