Vionnet: From High Fashion to Deep Seas

The recent news story of the whale that died in Thailand after vomiting up five of the 80 plastic bags it had swallowed has a special poignancy for Goga Ashkenazi.

Vionnet’s owner and creative director had already decided to transform this year’s designs for the historic French house into a sustainable capsule collection, inspired by the surf community. Today, even a pair of Vionnet sunglasses accidentally left on the beach offers no threat to sea creatures, as they are biodegradable.

“The sunglasses are made out of plastic from the ocean; it’s called ‘Sea2See’ and everything goes to charity – touch them to see how light they are,” Goga says.

In what seems like a speedy switch from high fashion to the ocean depths, last month Vionnet opened a corner boutique at London’s Selfridges, where the summer breeze blows through what can best be described as arty sportswear.

Behind the plan for Vionnet is Goga’s friendship with, and admiration for, the artist Marc Quinn. But her goal of making Vionnet fully sustainable is a project that has been given the thumb’s-up by key international buyers across the globe, from Paris to Russia.

The Marc Quinn connection brings authenticity and modernity to what was once a classic couture house, although Goga had already given it a sporty edge in her six years at the helm. The collection of colourful and streamlined designs for Summer 2018 is inspired by Marc Quinn’s series of “Raft Paintings”.

The British artist describes these works as “the paradox of materiality – transforming the accidental beauty of man-made waste, such as non-biodegradable plastic bags, into artwork that raises awareness”.

The Selfridges shop-within-a-shop shows the colourful Vionnet collection along with the artist’s inspiration. And Marc Quinn seems more than happy with the collaboration.

“I’ve been making art about the amount of plastic in our seas and in our lives, which is nothing less than a ticking time bomb,” he explains. “I showed this work to my friend Goga, who loved it and suggested using the imagery for a capsule collection that would help raise more money for Parley for the Oceans.”

The lightweight sportswear, with its games of lines and colour, will surely become more than just a Selfridges summer treat.

“For us, it’s a mega-step, because obviously we would love to be properly presented in London, but of course we are doing it around the world too – and online,” Goga says. “I went the whole circle and I came to understand the entire process. Having children, thinking of the repercussions, the questions they ask me, and the conversations we have – they have an amazing awareness. I want this to work for them.”

Vionnet is donating 50% of the Sustainable Surf collection profits to the environmental initiative, Parley For The Oceans, and £10 from each pair of Sustainable Surf sunglasses to Ambiente Europeo, which promotes waste-free seas. The collection is at Selfridges for seven weeks, and launches on 12th June at TsUM in Moscow.