Friday, October 14, 2016

In the Market Report by Marilyn Kirschner

Victor/Victorious!

Michelle Harper wearing a gown designed by
Victor dE Souza with the designer
(Click images for full size views)

The talented young couturier Victor dE Souza proudly describes himself as black, Jewish, and Italian. His late mother was Brazilian, his late father was Portuguese and he was a first generational Argentinian raised in Buenos Aires. If that’s not melting pot, I don’t know what is. I guess you could say he’s the consummate New Yorker!

Lupita Nyong'o on cover of Elle wearing a design by
Victor dE Souza 

He was introduced to beautiful (and very expensive) things at a very young age and he credits his grandmother (who had an enviable closet filled with exquisitely made clothes bearing the labels Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Schiaparelli, and Chanel, among others) with his early love of fashion design. He also tagged along with his mother and her sister when they went to their sewing classes where he learned his skills.

Victor in his atelier
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

At the age of 15, he began working as a fashion model in Buenos Aires, and then went to Paris, Milan and New York where he eventually settled and decided to pursue his real dream. He designed a small line of clothes that was picked up by Antique Boutique in Soho, and Patricia Field on 8th Street. He served as creative director of the playful New York label Rushkin from 2006 – 2007, designed a line for Dow Chemicals in Paris, and was subsequently offered design assistant jobs at Lanvin, Donna Karan and Bill Blass but, was convinced by his Kabbalah teacher Moshe Rosenberg, https://kabbalah.com/moshe-rosenberg to go solo.

Rihanna wearing Victor dE Souza on the  Rockstar 101 Album Cover

About 7 years ago, he staged his first runway show at the Plaza Hotel, which featured, what has become his calling card: those fabulous “big dresses” that he describes as “modern classics”. They are made for women who are not afraid to stand out in a crowd, want to command attention and make a grand entrance. You will never go unnoticed if you wear one of his dresses (which is something to keep in mind since we’re heading into the festive gala season).

Michelle Harper attends Casita Maria Fiesta at the Mandarin Hotel
in a Victor dE Souza gown
Photo: Vogue.com

I can’t tell you exactly when Victor dE Souza first came on my radar but I do remember who was wearing his clothes: Michelle Harper, known for her original and fantastical style of dressing (publicist Nadine Johnson once referred to her as “the DNA of cool”). I remember attending the Casita Maria Fiesta Gala at the Mondrian Hotel back in 2009 and Michelle was the belle of the ball with her drop dead gorgeous Victor dE Souza hot pink ballgown with teeny tiny waist, voluminous skirt, and ruffled neckline. She wore his clothes many times and, most always, showed up with Victor. As he put it, it was his “first publicity”.

Michelle Harper in Victor dE Souza gown
Photo: Vogue.com

Victor told me that when he first met Michelle, who now lives in LA with her wife Jenny Shimizu, the two connected right away, in part because of their shared Latino heritage (she is Colombian) and the fact that they both spoke Spanish. They also shared a mutual love for the avant-garde but had an appreciation of the classics. Both were dreamers, highly imaginative, and wanted to break the mold. When they met, she quickly became a customer and was photographed all over town in his creations, often accompanied with the designer.

Jean Shafiroff  in a Victor dE Souza gown at the El  Museo Del Barrio Gala
with Victor as her date.
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

The philanthropist and author Jean Shafiroff, who attended the same high profile events, also took notice and her first meeting with the designer would be the beginning of a personal friendship and an ongoing creative collaboration. Indeed, many if not most of Jean’s most memorable looks were created by Victor who often shows up as her date; he has his own very individual look and together they make quite a visual statement!

Jean with Victor wearing one of his gowns
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Every dress he designs for Jean (who has very specific ideas about what she wants) is made completely from scratch, takes about 100 hours and a team of people to make it happen, and it’s truly couture. As a couture designer, he works with clients individually and his goal is to create something that captures their unique style and ensure exclusivity so they won’t show up at a grand party and find another woman in the same dress. The cost? As they say, if you have to ask you can’t afford it but, they go from approximately $6000 and up.

Victor dE Souza Tiger Lily Peekaboo

Among his other high profile/celebrity clients: Daphne Guinness, Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Dakota Johnson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman, Lupita Nyong’o, Alicia Keyes, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Lopez, Coco Rocha, Steven Klein, James Franco, Steven Klein. FYI, Lupita Nyong’o also appeared on the cover of Elle Indonesia in June wearing his bustier; Naomi Campbell wore his creation in Vogue Portugal, June 2016; Rihanna wore one of his designs on the cover of her Rockstar 101 album cover; and he dressed Dakota Johnson for Saturday Night Live 40, June 20, 2016.

Victor dE Souza silk and lurex brocade Banksia cape

Everything is made by hand in a workroom on 7th Avenue (the same manufacturing company that produces collections for Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta, and Badgley Mischka).  All the pre-production takes place in Victor’s uptown atelier where he makes his own patterns along with his design team. On a recent visit, it was busy and buzzing and the studio which has several dress forms draped in muslin, was filled with sketches, swatches, and bolts of luxurious fabrics sourced globally from local to Europe (depending on who has the best quality and what it is he is looking for). He is already preparing for his next collection, “Love”, to be shown in February (he no longer goes by seasons).

This past September, he showed his most recent collection during New York Fashion Week at Gansevoort Park Avenue. Called “Believe in dE Impossible” (“I am exploring the future of fashion through the eyes of the millennials, in their strength to overcome the impossible and in having the courage to stand for what they believe in” is how he put it), it was a “see now buy now” for fall 2016. Speaking of “overcoming the impossible”, Victor’s mother suddenly passed away one day before the runway show, which garnered over 25,000 views on YouTube (he began selling online on his website 5 months ago, www.victordesouzany.com). While the designer may well be known for his dramatic voluminous evening gowns that is hardly the only thing he does well and it was not all that he showed.

Victor standing next to his Unicorn Gown
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

While a spectacular full skirted long red gown made of silk satin and silk tulle with a bodice hand painted with a unicorn (the “Unicorn Gown”, $8,900) closed the show, there was also the long and lean orange Tiger Lily Peek a Boo gown, $8650; the edgy sheer silk mesh “Adonis” gown with hand stitched metal plating, $14,500; the sharp shouldered capes in both soft wool, (the Dahlia, $2250), and in silk lurex brocade (the Banksia Brocade Cape, $2450); the knee length dress with cascading hem in black wool (the Heliconia Origami dress, $1850); the Heather mirror printed charmeuse dresses with detachable fur collar, $2950, and a number of evening separates.

Best selling black jumpsuit by Victor dE Souza
Photo: Lieba Nesis

Among the best sellers are a sleek black strapless jumpsuit hand stitched with “paper” sequins, and a hand embroidered raw silk bomber hand painted with a unicorn that for him is the definition of the “perfect cocktail attire”. The show also marked Victor’s first foray into menswear (all of which is made in Argentina in order to keep prices down). He would be the first to say it’s not exactly traditional menswear and he actually sees much of it as “unisex”, and that includes the black leather bombers which are hand painted by Dustin Lujan, the celebrity makeup artist who is also Victor’s partner in business and in life. In fact, Dustin did all the prints (the unicorn, the ‘caticorn’) in the collection and he told me it was “cathartic”.

Katya Bychkove and Dustin Lujan for Victor de Souza  Beauty

Victor has a clear vision for the future, and a business plan in place (he views his collection as a lifestyle brand). Complementing his clothing is a line of headwear (his hats represent the “lost art of sewing and craftsmanship”) and makeup, which he views as a natural progression (and I mean that literally as he detests thick makeup and prefers to see a woman’s natural beauty to shine though).

Victor dE Souza Beauty lipsticks
Photo: Marilyn Kirschner

Dustin, who has spent 20 years in the makeup industry (he has created make up lines for Tom Ford, Oscar de la Renta and Marchesa), has been instrumental in getting this project off the ground and was the one who convinced him it would be a perfect addition to what they already have. Together, they launched VdES (Victor dE Souza) Beauty this past April and their first products are the lipsticks which are priced from $68 - $408 for a Couture Box set. The prices reflect the high quality, innovative and exclusive formulas and the great packaging (Dustin personally designed the edgy metal "Chess-set" like lipstick containers that were inspired by chess). The pieces on top of the tubes of lipstick are actually pawns and according to Dustin, as the collection evolves, it will actually turn into a full chessboard.

There are plans to add foundation (which he sees as unisex), mascara, eyeliner and eye shadow. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, for Victor there are great things to come.





- Marilyn Kirschner

No comments:

Post a Comment