Styles to stand the test of time at Norwich Fashion Week

This September, Norwich Fashion Week will bring together fashion from all over Norfolk, including work from local designers. Emma Harrowing meets Norwich fashion designer Vanessa Lewis, who plans to take Norwich Fashion Week by storm with the launch of her new collection.

Coco Chanel wanted to design fashion collections that were wearable for the modern woman back in the 1920s and beyond. Now, Norwich fashion designer Vanessa Lewis, with her minimalist boutique on Wensum Street, wants to take Norwich and the world by storm with her classic and wearable designs that bring a touch of tailored femininity to women's wear.

And the similarities between the two designers do not stop there, as the 47-year-old's designs ooze a Chanel-esque charm. The classically cut suit with cropped jacket and pencil skirt is reminiscent of Chanel's signature cardigan jacket from 1925, while the 60s inspired shift dresses and contemporary pieces prove that, like Chanel, Vanessa has an eye for fashion forward styles – a 60s fashion revival is part of many autumn and winter collections – and styles that will stand the test of time.

Like Chanel, Vanessa is inspired by the arts. Old black and white movies starring style icons Audrey Hepburn or Grace Kelly are her inspiration, and her elegant, classically styled pieces reflect this.

'I design both seasonal collections and made to measure, bespoke items that are classic and are designed to suit all ages and shapes,' says Vanessa. 'The key to all my designs is style and quality. There are an increasing number of women who are looking for investment pieces that they can wear forever. My designs offer comfort, design and quality – a winning combination if you are looking for timeless pieces that will last you a lifetime.'

Vanessa moved with her family to Norfolk three years ago and opened the Vanessa Lewis boutique in November 2010. With a fashion degree under her belt in 2001 and skills in pattern cutting, design and dressmaking, Vanessa started out as a freelance designer working from home making items for clients who she visited for fittings. However, it had always been her ambition to have her own boutique selling her own designs. Now, with her first established fashion boutique, Vanessa aims to take Norwich Fashion Week by storm this September.

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'At the moment I am working on my autumn collection, which will be launched at the Open Store event during Norwich Fashion Week,' says Vanessa, who is currently keeping her new designs well under wraps.

'I showcased some of my current designs at the Norwich Fringe Festival earlier this year, where I worked in collaboration with fashion students. I also exhibited at the Royal Norfolk Show in June and was amazed by the amount of interest and commissions I received.'

The positive feedback Vanessa's designs received at the Royal Norfolk Show has encouraged her to branch out into made to measure and bespoke design, alongside her off-the-peg collections.

Says Vanessa: 'Any item can be tailor made to suit the individual, even the collection pieces for sale in the boutique can be adjusted and altered to your liking.

'The made to measure service is more bespoke as you can talk to me about what you want, you can see fabric samples and you will have fittings so that the item is tailor made for you.'

Vanessa loves the whole design process, from designing, to choosing the fabric, to pattern cutting and fitting. It's a passion that shines through when she talks about her work and is evident in her skilled craftsmanship.

'Each piece can be made to measure,' says Vanessa. 'Patterns can be adjusted to suit an individual's figure and may involve making a toile before the final garment. Some adjustments may be minor ones involving the shortening or lengthening of a hem or sleeve and most adjustments fall somewhere in between these two extremes. The aim is to achieve an excellent fit and a beautiful garment, whatever shape you are.'

Speculation over what will be in her new collection when Vanessa unveils her new autumn designs at Norwich Fashion Week's Open Store event is divided. Will the new collection follow the path of autumn's predicted 60s trend with more of her shift dresses, or will it unveil Vanessa's more contemporary stance? Or maybe neither, or a mix of the two, as has been seen in her previous collections.

What we are guaranteed is a collection that contains classically timeless designs that can be tailor made to fit like a glove and make you look like the style icons that have inspired Vanessa Lewis' designs.

And here's another clue; Vanessa has somewhat swayed from gaining inspiration from movie icons of the past and has found an altogether more contemporary muse.

Says Vanessa: 'I would love to design for the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton. I love her classic yet contemporary style. Designing an outfit for her – well that certainly would be a coup!'

Vanessa will be unveiling her autumn collection at the Open Store event which will take place at Ethika on Timberhill and at various locations in the city centre. Vanessa's new collection will be available to buy at the Vanessa Lewis boutique on Wensum Street from midday until 8pm on Tuesday September 27, during Norwich Fashion Week.

To find out more about Norwich Fashion Week keep checking the website at or or Twitter @NorwichFashion