Neous by Vanissa Antonious

Words:
April Ru Wan

Before Vanissa Antonious launched her brand Neous in 2017, she was a fashion editor, constantly reviewing collections. Somewhere along the lines of her career, she couldn’t help but notice a certain spark missing in the industry – especially in well-crafted, wearable and beautifully designed shoewear. She says Neous is for the “informed non-conformist,” as her collections are designed to be timeless with modern accents. With a background in art history, Vanissa is constantly searching for inspiration across all mediums that lead her back to her desk in the studio. An atmosphere she consistently pulls inspiration from is the feeling of being at a “balmy summer night terrace party.” Who can resist the sound of that? Scroll through our interview below to learn more about Vanissa’s journey as a founder, her quest for high-quality materials and the launch of Neous in Selfridges and Harrods.

April Ru Wan: Neous launched in 2017, before that you were an editor at a fashion magazine. Could you share the process of leaving that job and starting Neous? What made you take the leap?
Vanissa Antonious: I constantly saw brilliant collections as an editor, but I often found something missing, so I set myself to work out what that was. The discovery was a product offering versatility, luxury, and a distinctive aesthetic that speaks to wearability. There had to be a way of building this offering without compromising on style or fabrication, pieces that were just effortlessly desirable without being super trend statements. These pieces could really bring style to life daily and not be so mega-brand-heavy. I took the leap as it just felt so instinctual, and it has been a process of carving out this true belief ever since then, surrounding myself with people and artisans who also believed in my vision and working to deliver accessories that are a NEOUS offering/ subscription to design. 
AW: Your family heritage is from Egypt while you grew up in Australia and currently reside in London. Do you find yourself pulling inspiration from the different cultures you’ve experienced? If so, could you share some?
VA: While London is my home and truly a very creative hub, I feel I have always been drawn to finding interesting pockets of connectivity wherever I am and lifting sensory small yet strong top notes of life from each landscape. 
While I wouldn’t say that NEOUS taps into a visible or typical ideal of an ‘Egyptian’ aesthetic, it does connect with the rich history and traditions of self-adornment that are artisanal and very considered. Tactility is a nostalgic element that I very much feel and draw upon from memories of my family and pieces of my mother’s jewellery, translating this into aspects of hardware.
Colour, saturation of light and vibrancy are key aspects of all of the work I create, especially when seeking materials, building the campaign imagery and fundamentally thinking about how I want the person wearing NEOUS to feel- that they can embrace that moment of memorable living pleasure. A balmy summer night terrace party is an environment that draws me often, and this speaks to my approach to enjoyment, finding a very celebratory moment that feels 360 upon you and focusing on that.
AW: You shared an image of future releases for the brand, what a gorgeous lineup of shoes! From the photo we can see that there’s elements of mesh involved, which is one of this season’s trends. You’ve done such a fresh take with using the material, staying trendy without losing the Neous vision. How do you keep your designs authentic while bringing in new elements?
VA:
NEOUS is for the informed non-conformist. We offer considered variety without catering to trends; each season is an extension of a narrative of style that continues to define the facets of the NEOUS world. The collections are carefully designed, delivering a tangibly differentiated ‘value’ proposition with a crafted quality of minimalist, understated aesthetics. We look at including and working with materials that embrace durability, flexibility, and a sense of joyful tactility. We have had mesh as one of the offerings for NEOUS shoes for a while, as I love the shadows and dappled sunlight that this creates when worn in summer. I feel fabric on footwear adds a softness and femininity, which is rare; in the SS24 High Summer collection, this is brought to life in the Diana bow mule in satin.
AW: Neous shoes and accessories take notes from fluid lines, often like the ones we see from architectural design. How has your eye for architecture influenced the brand?
VA: I studied art history at university, and some of these cornerstones of classic and progressive design greatly supported my instinctual eye. Creating accessories is a sculptural practice that must have functional delivery; it is a complex execution of purposeful architecture for the body. With NEOUS, I wanted to create a brand that offered pieces specifically for the flux and flow of life and pieces that enhanced and complimented the fluidity and silhouettes of the human forms. While NEOUS is a distinctive aesthetic, it is a natural non-consciousness from which it is created. I feel people can sense this mix of effortless yet considered delivery.
AW: Launching a brand by yourself must’ve had its hardships, what are some mental health practices or mantras that you implement in order to keep going?
VA: Building an independent brand and path in a traditional practice/historic-led industry is only for tenacious people. Each day as a brand owner is a balance between creativity and commerciality. It is the very complex navigation of a layered industry that is experiencing unprecedented changes from every corner. Some days, it can feel intensive to navigate, but having self-belief, a truly committed team surrounding me, and talented artisans helps to frame and contextualise some of the hurdles.
I do try to invest in practices that nourish my way of thinking, such as morning meditation, exercise, and using my free time to see exhibitions and make friends, which re-fills my inspiration and appreciation levels. Also, perspective is a big part of strength, finding ways to contextualise some of the granular elements. So much of our work is about details, which is important, but it is also about context, and that is important.
AW: You choose to use bi-products of the leather industry to produce your designs, a major step towards creating more sustainability in the fashion industry. Was this an initial decision made at the beginning of the brand?
VA: NEOUS is dedicated to sourcing high-quality, sustainable materials. We invest in the artisanal, selectively sourcing fabrications across all components and products. Our NEOUS consumer is a conscious one, constantly seeking the best components and materials that will stand the test of time. This commitment to quality and sustainability has been our ambition since day one and it continues to evolve. The brand signature blend is understated, crafted, versatile, recognisable, practical, and timeless. As part of this, we use certified and carefully sourced leathers and other materials, such as organic cotton and recycled textiles, that provide lasting durability, encouraging the behaviour of considered consumerism via purchasing pieces that can be long-life modern heirlooms. Worn, loved, and cared for.
AW: What’s next for Neous!
VA: Paris! We are showcasing the new collection in our beautiful Paris showroom opposite the Palais Garnier. After this, we are back in London to celebrate the launch of two exciting new stockists in our home city, the launch of NEOUS at Selfridges and Harrods! Nothing describes NEOUS like touching the shoe or the bag in person; it immediately makes all the elements make sense, and we are excited to have our pieces available in these iconic physical stores where the pieces can be enjoyed by those in London and beyond.

Photographer: Simon Shmidt & Holly Gibson

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