It’s day two of Paris Fashion Week and Vanessa Seward is sick. She’s sniffling and coughing and bravely keeping herself together with pharmaceuticals. But she’s smiling like a beauty queen and talking to the press like a machine. Because she can’t afford to be dwindling. She has a presentation and everyone is here. It’s her third season at APC and the buzz is mightier than ever. APC has been a steady, level-minded, global-but-French brand since 1988. The jeans are comfortable, the sweaters warm and the dresses durable. It’s no-nonsense simplicity. But since her arrival there’s a sort of renewed interest. Her collaborative efforts have infused the brand with a powerful ingredient best described as “femme”.
Or is APC influencing the influencer? Vanessa admits she’s not been entirely immune nor reluctant to a mutual transformation. “I used to be quite sophisticated,” she remembers, “always on high heels, mixing vintage or couture pieces from the houses I was working at (this is impressive: nine years at Chanel, two years with Tom Ford at YSL and nine years at Azzaro) with “classics” like Repettos, a Burberry’s trench, a St James marinière… Lately I’m developing a more casual sophistication thanks to APC, which basically means using the same ingredients except incorporating more jeans and comfortable heels – they do great wedges!” Even her Argentine roots have suffered a “frenchization”, except “in the way I always try to be a little too groomed,” she blushes. “Luckily with time I’m letting go a little…”
Vanessa and her musician husband Bertrand have been living in the apartment for over 15 years. The place used to belong to one of Edith Piaf’s impressarios and they’ve tried to respect the original decor as much as possible. “The electric circuit is giving us terrible problems,” Bertrand complains, “but if we would have had builders in here they would have destroyed everything, so we didn’t touch anything.” The arrival of “la petite Jacqueline” who’s almost three now, Bertrand’s massive music archive and the rampant accumulation of Vanessa’s vintage collection has left visible marks on the chaos and clutter in the house, but I would not expect anything less of such a creative family. Everything and everyone has its own allocated piece of purpose.
“I’m a little bit embarrassed about how many clothes I have,” confesses Vanessa when we take the elevator three floors up to her storage spaces. “Is it bad to have this much stuff?” Who am I to judge? My eye balls almost pop out of my head at the sight of all the high-end vintage she has: two inefficiently-lit mini-bedrooms stuffed with shoe boxes and racks of garment bags, each containing the rarest pieces by Yves Saint Laurent, Azzaro and Chanel, a few authentic Argentine skirts and some of her mom’s boleros, Chinese dining jackets and ballroom taffeta skirts. “Why don’t you go through them and choose what you want me to wear?” she suggests. Will I ever?? I couldn’t have been more greedy if you paid me. We end up lugging arms full of dresses, skirts and coats down to the apartment and get into the groove of things. Eventually Vanessa’s cough gets the best of her, and we have to abandon our dress-up party after the fifth outfit. It’s day three now, and she must turn off the machine.