From crochet to the art of couture, knitwear designer, Violetta Vieux, was designing in Paris, before she moved to the Bay Area in 2008. Her line,VioGemini, will launch a new bridal collection next month, but you can preview it this Thursday, along with her intricate crochet dresses, at the RAW: Natural Born Artists event at 111 Minna.
I sat down with Violetta Vieux to get her inside opinion on the SF fashion scene, and the scoop on her new bridal collection.
7x7: What is your take on San Francisco and the SF fashion scene?
VV: My husband got a promotion so we moved to San Francisco from Paris. It's very different here, but I like it -- it's calm and cool. What I see in SF fashion is that, because there's no fashion industry, a lot of young designers have to create their own line. It's good because, while you're still young you have energy and can still change. When you get experience from internships you see the reality of the industry and learn more about price points -- sometimes you stop really creating and just follow the trends and price demands.
7x7: What is your design process?
VV: First I pick the materials and textures. I need to see what I'm working with, then I'll come up with the details -- trim, crochet or knit pattern, fabric alteration, pockets, closures. Then I drape for volume and think about what kind of garment this will be -- dress, skirt, etc. Finally, if I get other ideas I sketch them. I never start by sketching. My teachers used to say I'm like an architect who designs the doorknobs before the building. After I do some draping, I'll draft a pattern for production.
7x7: Do you have a studio in town?
VV: I work at my house in Fremont. When we first came to our house I saw the master bedroom with the mirrored door closet and I said, "This is my studio!" The guest bedroom is our bedroom now!
7x7: Where do you source your fabrics from?
VV: I have more than 400 different fabrics in my garage, a lot from Fabrics R US in San Jose. For my bridal line, I bought everything in LA. In a pinch, I go to JoAnn in Fremont for a zipper or thread.
7x7: What inspires your designs?
VV: My current crochet collection was inspired by mixing opposites -- soft and hard, artificial and organic, cold and hot. The shapes were inspired by snowflakes. 6-point hexagons with stars and flowers are my signature so it ties to that.
7x7: I know you studied couture in Paris. Is all of your crochet work done by hand? How long does it take?
VV: Yes, it's all knit by hand with cotton and silk yarn. I crochet and then add plastic or metal sequin while I crochet. Then I hand embroidered with beads, crystals or fur. It takes about 120 hours to complete a long dress. I'm very fast though -- I think I was expressing my hyperactivity though crochet when I was young. I was a quiet child, but I was crocheting like crazy!
7x7. What's the next step for VioGemini?
VV: When we came here I started doing custom orders, which is not satisfying for me as a designer -- it was more like I was a seamstress. Now I'm working on a wedding collecting and I'm launching my e-commerce website in August. It'll still be very special semi-custom orders, not just buy online and ship to your door.
7x7: What can we expect from your wedding collection?
VV: The dresses are all off white, short and long styles. They're made with bridal stain and decorated with rhinestones, handmade fabric flowers with origami pleating, and feathers. The short dresses will have long skirts that can be taken off to dance after the ceremony.
7x7: What advice would you give to younger designers and artists?
VV: First of all, understand yourself -- it doesn't come in 2 weeks or even in 2 years. And not every designer needs to be a revolutionary. It took me a long time to understand what my style is, what I want to do, and what I can do. You must practice a lot. You must know fabrics -- know how they will behave, put them on the dress form and see how they fall. Also, wear your own garments -- it will motivate you to see how people react, and how they feel on, so you can make them better. I was wearing one of my my crochet tops in Romania to the disco, and I sold it right there to a girl -- good thing I had an extra t-shirt in the car!
RAW: Natural Born Artists at 111 Minna, Thursday July 21, 7:30pm-12am, VioGemini by Violetta Vieux fashion show at 10pm, $10.
Lily Ko (lily.7x7 @ gmail.com) studied fashion design and merchandising at Central Saint Martins and the Academy of Art University. In addition to writing for 7x7, Lily is an editor at SF Station, works as a freelance stylist and covers food, fashion and fun on her blog, Curated SF.