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Q&A with Vanissa Antonious, Founder & Creative Director of NEOUS

July 29, 20

Tell us about Neous and why you were inspired to start a shoe line.

NEOUS was born out of a desire to make great shoes for women that had a unique point of view, were exceptionally versatile and wearable in the wardrobe, and at an accessible price point. I was personally craving just that, and I know a lot of my friends in the industry were too. I started working on the idea in 2016 and we launched for Spring/Summer 2017.

How did your fashion editor background help you become a designer?

I worked in fashion magazines and as a stylist for over 10 years. It really helped me to understand the market and also to learn a lot about product, quality, craftsmanship and what luxury really meant. It also meant that I always approached things in a slightly different way - keeping in mind how it would be worn, where to and with what.


How did you end up in the UK from Australia?

I worked for Harper’s Bazaar Australia for 5 years; I really felt an urge after that to discover the world and I wanted to be in the heart of it all. I was struggling to choose between London and New York and finally settled on London, where Europe is so accessible. Living in Australia, you don’t have the opportunity to explore a country for the weekend. Over the last 9 years, living in London it has allowed me to discover so many new cultures and so much history.


How has your upbringing influenced your designs? 

My parents were minimalists, they didn’t believe in excess and I think this has definitely influenced my design aesthetic, and the things I personally buy and am drawn too. Less but better-quality pieces that last. 


Have you been shoe obsessed forever? 

I would say I have been fashion obsessed forever! I wanted to be a fashion designer from a young age. I definitely have always loved shoes but my obsession definitely grows more each season. We are constantly trying to do better, create items with a unique point of view which are wearable and versatile in the wardrobe. The thrill of achieving this has become the obsession for me. Sometimes we can do 5 or 6 prototypes before we get it right and once you do it gives you so much satisfaction.


How are you surviving Covid? What’s the mood in London?

The mood is getting better, people are starting to go out again but still being cautious. I’ve really savoured this time, dare I say - I’ve almost enjoyed it. The last year was very chaotic for me, so this calm and quiet time has been a gift. I’ve personally enjoyed the time at home and it’s given me the time to really slowdown and continue to develop creatively at a nice pace.


And how did you design a collection remotely with your factory in Italy?

A lot of video and samples going back and forth! We have a team of three based in Italy, so I am very fortunate in that sense. They have worked with me for 2 years so they know me well. To adapt during this time, we confirm the final sketches and then once an item is made, the team send me videos of prototypes; from there we make the necessary changes. Once we believe the shoe is at a good point, the team sends me the sample so that I can personally try the style and make final corrections. I have to try everything myself to ensure not only comfort, but also an emotional connection to the design.


How will COVID-19 change fashion? How will it change your business?

While there is a lot of talk that COVID-19 will change fashion, I’m not entirely convinced if it actually will. We need fashion, we need the excitement and the way it makes us feel. If anything, I feel trends may become a thing of the past and we will start to invest more in staples and forever pieces. Having not worn much in the last four months, it has made me proud to see that everything in my wardrobe is still relevant. For this collection, we thought about what people really want to wear now (as we always do). For me that was elevated comfort and pieces with an emotional connection and nothing in-between. Having experienced this, I feel it has and will make me more switched on from a business perspective. I think it’s going to be a balance of taking less risk in some areas to ensure we are always protected, and taking more risk in others to ensure we are always in control of the outcomes.


You gave us the most darling gift during lockdown- a WTF- What the Fashion- trivia game. How much fun is that? How much fun did you have making it and what inspired you to do so?

So much fun! I made it with my boyfriend Timba Smits and a good friend Jamie Huckbody. We wanted to create something that would lift everyone’s spirits in the industry and help like-minded people connect even digitally. Everyone was saying they were missing fashion and I definitely was, so we wanted to give that gift back to our friends and those who had supported NEOUS. 


What will women want to wear this summer? And will you travel? If you are not traveling- what places are you most looking forward to visiting when life opens up again? 

As I said, I know I missed fashion and I’ve heard a lot of people say it. I think we will all be divided. Either super casual or we will take the opportunity to dress up and make ourselves feel alive again. I’m not sure if I will travel yet for a holiday; I’m in two minds about it. I miss the ocean like crazy so I’d love to, but I’m keen to do everything I can to limit the spread of the virus. Today I’m actually traveling back to Italy for final fittings of the new collection. It’s the first time I’ve been in five months and I can’t wait to see my team there. No doubt I will get a little sun so that might be all I’ll need to get me through the summer. I’m Australian so I’m hoping I will be able to travel in December to visit my family and enjoy the Australian summer.


What is your best source of inspiration now that you have been staying in place these past few months?

Inspiration comes in the strangest forms sometimes. It can be a piece of furniture, a photograph or a film. I don’t think it’s really changed for me, definitely any inspiration that has come from traveling hasn’t been available. But during the first month of all of this, it was the calm and quiet which helped me delve in my inspiration. We’d actually just moved to a new house and unpacking all my old books helped me rediscover things that had left my memory bank.


Any books, movies, tv shows to recommend? 

I’ve watched a million films over the last 4 months. Youth by Pablo Sorrenti is still one of my all times favourites, every scene is so beautifully shot and styled. I also just started reading again. I’ve also been meditating for the last 4 years, since starting NEOUS really. 


What women inspire you the most?

All women! We are all remarkable in our own way.


Have you been you bored, busy, or both?

Busy, yes. Things haven’t changed for me, except the amount of traveling. During lockdown, my first task was to ensure the stability of the company and everyone’s roles within it. Then as soon as our manufactures opened, it was to design a collection. I wouldn’t say bored but things did get a little repetitive for a while there, as if we were all in groundhog day.