Verdavainne, a new label to debut off-calendar during NYFW, founded by Casablanca-born Cyril Verdavainne, is the honed vision of a designer who has been working away behind the scenes in the US and Europe for many years. With stints at Carmen Marc Valvo, Pierre Balmain and Thierry Mugler, his bold eveningwear juxtaposes playful color combinations, fitted bodices, trapunto stitched belt detailing and high-waisted voluminous skirts. It communicates an architectural grace particularly striking when framed by the monolithic columns on the balcony at Cipriani Wall Street where he has rolled out his red carpet runway. As guests sip Bellinis, the restrained but decisive looks conjure up a certain European high society elegance, the sort Grace Kelly epitomized in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief. And further harking back to the glamor of bygone eras, the Verdavainne finale of a wedding gown in chalk white that features a halter neckline, sweeping skirt and appliqué sash made of delicate white poppy petals, raises more than a few wistful sighs. FashionUnited speaks with the designer after his show to the sound of champagne corks popping.
What was the motivation behind the ss24 collection?
I wanted to show something glamorous and generous in proportion but with clean, crisp lines. The use of colors was a must for me with the neon yellow, the chartreuse, the shameless fuchsia pink. It’s all about bringing fun to our clients’ wardrobes.
And what do you bring to the New York evening wear market?
Here’s the thing, we can speak about flowers and spring and inspiration and all that but the real focus for me now is my client and how she cannot find what she is looking for, when she has events, auction parties to go to, weddings, she cannot find an outfit in a department store.
Is this the reason you maintain the tradition of the trunk show?
Absolutely. We first set up trunk shows working with Saks Fifth Avenue and this works very well for us because it gives the client a lot of flexibility. It’s not just garments on the floor, but you get to talk to me, and to work one-on-one with myself or my Vice President. In fact, you get to build the garment the way you really want it. A particular kind of sleeve, a change of neckline, it’s all completely possible, this is what we do. We are bringing options to her. I love meeting her. Trunk shows help me to understand her needs and that’s paramount for me.
The trunk show used to be an important part of bring a collection to market but is it coming back into favor?
Correct, and the stores are very happy to have us because it becomes an event. Things are confusing right now and we just want to simplify it as much as possible by coming to the client and answering her needs. Speaking of our clients, it was important for us to feature our gorgeous curvy ladies because they are here, they are very real, and they very much appreciate brands like Verdavainne. I have been at this gig for a little while now, and I haven’t met a woman who is a straight size.
How has your time working for other designers informed your own process?
Well, Carmen Marc Valvo just texted me. Yes, I have been around for more than a minute and this first show is really the result of a career starting in Europe when my dream was an haute couture show, putting my guts on the runway, and having that moment of high emotion. But then I came here and it became about working with the clients and their needs and a lot less about me and my own little feelings. It was really about bringing something that was necessary onto the market. And so this is really a transformational journey for me. And I’m celebrating 25 years in New York!
Some designers no longer sketch but you do a lot of illustrating, how does that play into your work?
First of all I’m an artist, I started as an abstract artist and I draw everything that I see. It’s really a first look at the shape, a first take on what I’m going to give to my draper to build the garment. Often things don’t work but it’s informational. I think it’s very important to start with a pencil and a white page and take it from there.
Is everything created by hand?
Everything is hand-done in New York City and the fabrics come from Europe and some are stored in California. While I design a line every season, the brand sets itself apart and identifies as ‘custom’ and made to measure. The client gets to create, and for me, it is an opportunity to learn more about women and about the clothes they truly want to wear.
You founded Verdavainne in 2018 and in 2020 there was the pandemic when we were all indoors. How did that effect your business and are people getting dressed up again?
It was very interesting because during pandemic people were telling me to basically do pajamas and I decided not to get distracted but continue my path and be strong. I continued working through the pandemic and the stores accepted what we were shipping. We were fine. It was just a matter of chopping all the dresses to cocktail length because all the events became backyard gatherings, garden weddings, and we had to adapt. Then it went right back. So I am not doing pajamas.