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“The Gentlewoman’s Guide”, elegance according to Vanessa Seward

Here is an autobiographical primer presented by the publisher as “An essential guide accessible to all”. If the sales pitch is amazing, the attention is however caught by the mysterious portrait which sits on the front cover. Not found there, as one might expect, that of stylist Vanessa Seward, its author, but that of another woman. the work, Sylvia in Red, portrait of Sylvia Kristel by Vanessa Seward, is an oil on paper from 2020.

Information sets the scene and sets the tone. But the reader must weave through the two hundred pages of anecdotes, memories, confidences and “trade secrets” of this Gentlewoman’s Guide, to get the end of the story: alongside Dayle Haddon, another myth of (erotic) cinema from the 1970s, the memorable interpreter of the film Emmanuelle is at the heart of the imagination of the 53-year-old designer. ” I find them both terribly inspiring and super chic. They are a bit like Rolls of girls, she says.

Portraits of Sylvia Kristel painted by Vanessa Seward: “Sylvia in Red”, (2020).

Written with two hands with the complicity of journalist and friend Matthias Debureaux, the book is full of these moments of pause in the company of personalities who have shaped the imagination and aesthetics of Vanessa Seward. His parents (sacred darlings), crowned heads, Hollywood actresses and disillusioned playboys then meet.

The importance of brushing

Modest “sick” and too well brought up to tell her story directly, the fashion designer often uses this detour via the emblematic figures of her iconostasis to tell herself as closely as possible about her positions, her flaws and, in passing, gives her tips for holding the first and span the seconds. In this regard, Vanessa Seward does not pretend here to fool anyone. For the one who went to Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Azzaro, who put her name next to that of APC and launched, with the support of Jean Touitou, her own label or even collaborated with La Redoute, appearance, clothing are armor, not weapons.

A very simple example of those that we usually keep for ourselves. ” In the 1950s, she writes, the Duchess of Windsor could have her hair done up to three times a day: in the morning before putting on a hat, in the afternoon before shopping and in the evening when going out. » For her part, she confesses: “Jmanaged to ease my apprehension of “looking” by making an appointment with my hairdresser the day before every important event in my life (my brushing is much better after sleeping on it), and Iadmit that at certain times my appointments were made according to the state of my brushing. »

Helenita, Vanessa Seward's mother, in 1978, in London.

Throughout this guide, the anecdotes (of the nougat) change from one star to another, but the sincere and funny tone remains the same. Between colorful parents and irresistible style icons, the space in which to find a place is narrow and you have to deal with all that.

Illustrated by canvases painted by the author’s hand, family photos or archive images of stars, the elegant universe of Vanessa Seward is traversed in 67 leaps and bounds. ofEmmanuelle to Prince Charles and his mother, her again, who hit the headlines even in the official embassy review, to her daughter, whom she had with the musician and label boss Bertrand Burgalat, her “pillar”, the field of exploration is as vast as it is intimate and inspiring. His spirit seeking in everything and everywhere to find a model, a behavior to adopt in order to subvert the ordinary and the everyday with a hint of fragile elegance.

The Gentlewoman’s Guide, by Vanessa Seward, JC Lattès, 208 pages, €19.90.

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