BEHIND THE BRAND: WE INTERVIEW RENEE VERDON, DESIGNER OF AUSTRALIAN LABEL VOUS
The Dress Collective is proud of its growing fashion family and our most recent addition is a testament to our ethical fashion ethos. Below, Renee Verdon shares her inspirations, her personal story and her stance on ethics in business behind her Australian owned, designed and made fashion label, VOUS.
Who or what influenced your relationship with fashion growing up?
Growing up, I would spend many hours with my grandmother who had a love for creating unique garments. She sewed her own clothing and accessories well into her late 80s. My love for creating and sewing blossomed from there.
Did you study fashion or are you self-taught?
I studied an Advanced Diploma of Fashion Design at The Design Studio, Sydney Institute. This was an amazing experience and has seen many of Australia’s top designers emerge from its training.
What led you to launching a brand and when did you launch?
VOUS was launched in 2013 after graduating from my degree. I had completed my four years of training and was eager to put my learning into practice and develop a strong Australian brand.
Describe your brand to our readers?
VOUS is a ready to wear womenswear brand that explores contemporary design. The brand’s aesthetic focuses on combining the conceptual exploration of ‘self’ with concrete forms of beauty such as the natural environment and cultural references. There is a strong emphasis on ethical production and sustainability and each garment is produced with longevity in mind. Natural fibers are predominate and each piece is thoroughly considered in terms of finish and wearability. This means that when you invest in a VOUS piece, you are receiving a unique garment that has been thought through from its lining to external finish.
Where are your garments designed and made?
All garments are designed in house in Newcastle, New South Wales. Local production occurs in Sydney with family owned businesses that are 100% Australian owned.
What does a week in your shoes look like?
The VOUS week is definitely busy! It involves balancing focus and time between my two major work roles of Fashion Design and Clinical Psychology, which I continue to practice while the VOUS brand is growing. My daily tasks between my two professions can range from juggling the design process, production relationships, brand development and retail relationships to working with clients around range of issues that have been interfering with their mental health.
Why are you passionate about manufacturing your brand in Australia?
The world of fast fashion has definitely impacted the Australian consumer. What many people do not know however, is the impact that this has on both our environment and social equality worldwide. When creating the VOUS label I was clear that I did not want to contribute to factors that allow poor working conditions to continue. As such, I felt that keeping my relationships within the Australian manufacturing industry would allow me to know first hand about the manufacturer and their processes. This has allowed me to work with family owned and operated small businesses, which is something I want to support.
Explain the process of one of your garments?
VOUS currently offers two collections per year; Autumn/Winter and Spring/Summer. The process of creating a collection begins with a design concept. This typically references nature and the human experience in some form. Once a design concept is generated I spend time collecting relevant information such as colour trends, imagery, and objects that relate to the design concept. Individual garment designs are then generated by abstracting from these images and objects. I aim to produce 5 to 6 different looks per season, which can translate into 10 to 16 garments. The production steps then involve fabric sourcing, pattern making (which is done by traditional methods), toiling of the pattern, grading, sampling and finally production.
What do you think about fast fashion?
I believe that fast fashion has definitely predominated the Australian fashion scene. It appears however that this trend has had a negative impact on Australian brands with many closing after years of previous sustainability. I feel that consumers do need to be made aware of these impacts so that they can make informed decisions about their purchasing behaviours.
How do you define ethics and how do you apply ethics to your business?
I would define ethics as the values an individual holds that govern and direct their decision-making and behaviour. VOUS has a strong emphasis on ethics and its mission statement highlights this; 'We own our ethical principles. We care about our customer's values. We promote authenticity, product awareness and creativity. We use natural fibers, quality finishes and local production. We evolve with you and for you as a consumer.'
What challenges do you face as an Australian made brand?
As a young Australian made brand there are many challenges. These include developing brand awareness with Australian consumers, competing with lower priced fast fashion (which has flooded the Australian market), raising capital to grow and develop the brand, and accessing platforms that showcase Australian fashion – and this is why The Dress Collective is such an amazing opportunity for Australian designers.
Brand highlights or achievements to date?
VOUS is now entering its fourth year of business. With a high proportion of small businesses failing within the first three years, it feels like a major achievement to have sustain the brand during these initial phases. VOUS has had the opportunity to build creative relationships with other Australian fashion industry representatives and has produced several couture garments that have been worn to exclusive events such as the TV Week Logie Awards.
Support Australian fashion and shop the full VOUS range here.