South African fashion: Hendrik Vermeulen Couture

Moneybags journalist Jessica Anne Wood sat down with the managing director of Hendrik Vermeulen Couture (HVC), Jean Daniel Meyer-Vermeulen (JD) to discuss the brand’s recent success overseas, and how it has developed and grown over the past few years.

JD met Hendrik Vermeulen, the founder and creative force behind HVC, seven years ago, and together they have successfully launched the brand onto the international stage.

A brand is born

Vermeulen has been passionate about fashion since the age of 15 when he sold his first evening dress. Over the years he has worked for a number of well-known designers, including internationally renowned designer Gert van de Merwe.

In 2007 Vermeulen started to work for himself, designing custom made bridal wear and exclusive formal evening wear. In 2009 Hendrik Vermeulen Couture was launched with its first store in Cape Town. The flagship store can now be found in Bree Street in the Cape Town CBD.

The boutique offers the brands Prêt-à-Porter label “Simply Vermeulen”, as well as its Resort wear line.

The boutique is run mainly through appointment only, however, HVC is in the process of opening an online store where selected resort wear and other items from the collections should be available for purchase.

However, JD points out: “To be honest with you, the idea was to offer our products to people living in the north Karoo, to people living in places in South Africa [that are really out of the way] and we will have a concept where some evening dresses can be obtained online. We will make a system where measurements are sent through online, to give satisfaction to girls who cannot come three times for fittings from the outskirts. We are trying to make it easier and still accessible, and gorgeous of course, because that is what customers want to look like.”

Part of the industry

JD attributes their success to originality, hard work, dedication talent on Hendrik’s side and the fact that they have taken no shortcuts. He believes that in a creative environment, you need hard work and expertise, but if you don’t have talent, it will be very difficult.

JD notes that it is difficult for new and young designers to break into the industry. “I think that a young designer must be focused on being extremely original and try to do as much [as possible to] set yourself apart, because the big machine is still going to be there. And I believe that every designer that would like to compete in today’s essential wear will break their teeth, because in 20 years from now some names like H&M will have the emporium and do the entire world of your essential wear.”

HVC source their materials and do as much as they can locally. However, JD reveals that unfortunately South Africa does not produce its own wool or silk as we do not have the necessary infrastructure, resources and climate to generate some of the materials needed.

“We buy our fabric, but we buy our fabric in ivory colour, and everything you see in the shop is printed, dyed, we do everything ourselves. So it sets ourselves apart from having to go to the fabric shop, and offering you for instance, as our client, a dress that has exactly the same colour as your friend.,” says JD.

According to JD, the world is interested in South Africa. The brand has recently caught the attention of an American retailer, which could soon make South African produced HVC clothing more easily available to an international market.

Conservation

In addition to focusing on the quality and local production of his clothes, Vermeulen also aims to have a message or idea presented through his collections.

HVC recently formed a collaboration with the I Am Water Ocean Conservation Trust, with its new line, aptly named ‘I Am Water’. The aim of this collaboration is to raise awareness about the foundation, as well as the importance of protecting the oceans, and was showcased internationally at the World of Fashion during AltaRoma, a platform showcasing emerging designers.

Through this collaboration, they are hoping to raise funds and awareness for the campaign, therefore assisting in its various projects to educate people about the ocean and how they can relate to it.

According to JD, the collection was well received in Rome, and they are expecting similar reactions when it is showcased in New York City in the coming weeks.