Vanessa Williams, whose career includes singer, actress and designer, is readying for her next gig — the launch of her own apparel label on multi-platform retailer HSN online July 1 and on-air July 11.
“I want to bring quality with great price points and sophistication,” said Williams, about her collection of contemporary looks with an edge and includes animal-print skirts, a moto jacket with sequin trim and jumpsuit. “It’s easy fashion that’s unique. The looks are elegant, easy and affordable.”
Williams was in control when it came to designing the collection, having learned how to sew as a child. “My mother sewed all my dresses,” she said. “I grew up with a Singer sewing machine in her room. “I remember going to the fabric store and picking out my McCall’s patterns,” said Williams, noting her mother even made her first communion dress.”
According to Williams, 56, she’d often sew her own wrap skirts and even embroidered her gym suit, a romper with snaps, paving the way early on for her own collection.
Although Williams doesn’t offer footwear in her line just yet, she has strong shoe preferences. “I always like a little bit of heel, it just makes me feel more sophisticated even if it’s a clog,” she said. “I have a wide foot, so I feel my line looks better just a little bit lifted,” she said.
She’s also a fan of looks that make airline travel easier such as slip-on styles or a bootie with a zipper. And, while her shoe choices take a more elevated turn, on occasion she opts for sneakers by Canadian designer Ron White that include a multi-color style in ivory and gun metal with a side zip, and Chanel-inspired quilted version in black leather. But whatever the style, Williams emphasized, “Comfort is important. The older I get the more my feet hurt.”
Williams also credits fashion icon Patricia Field for further guiding her fashion career. Field, the stylist on the hit TV show “Ugly Betty,” where Williams took on the role of Wilhelmina Slater, worked closely with Williams. “Our fittings would go on for over an hour,” she recalled. “Seeing Field’s innovations and creativity, and knowing that everything can be altered and made better, that’s what I love about her.”
Creating clothing for real women of all shapes, sizes and ages, is Williams’ goal. “My mother will be 80, and I have daughters who are 32, 30 and 19,” all of whom are in her mind when creating her designs. “I always envision what they will like and have at least one piece for [each]. My daughters have opinions and great ideas and know what makes them feel comfortable.”
According to Williams, “A large part of my audience are women who are 70-plus, go to church, women’s groups, book clubs and want sophisticated dressing. We go from size XS to 3X.”
In fact, her youngest daughter Sasha will be modeling the debut collection on-air. “She’ll be wearing the red jumpsuit as well and one of animal print sweaters with lace in gray. I told her to bring ripped jeans and wear it with sneakers.”
Although Williams now has the opportunity to wave her design wand in many directions, she knows what best fits her body type. “I don’t look good in an A-line shape. I have small hips, no waist and broad shoulders so look way better in column dresses or styles that have some ruching to give me some curves.”
As a female entrepreneur, Williams has some advice for those starting their careers. “Bottom line, follow your gut. If it doesn’t feel good, then don’t do it,” she warns. “If you’re having issues with somebody who is a partner and don’t feel they have the integrity, then run. I like honest credible people who are going to work as a team. Be open to opportunity, you just never know when it’s going to come or who it’s coming through. Ego can get in the way, so sometimes you have to let it aside and really evaluate if [something] is a good opportunity. Take some time to feed it and work it.”
What’s next on her agenda? Williams will be debuting a new album next year, her first in nearly a decade. And, look for her to perform during, “A Capitol Fourth” in Washington, D.C., on July 4, a live music event celebrating the nation’s independence, shown on PBS.
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