The Campy Extravagance of Victor De Souza

Victor dE Souza Fall 2019 couture collection
Silk Taffeta cape gown

In 2009 he launched his eponymous line in New York. Victor was first introduced to beautiful (and costly) things at a very young age and credits his grandmother (who had an enviable closet filled with exquisitely made clothes bearing the labels Balenciaga, Christian Dior, Schiaparelli, and Chanel, among others) with his early love of fashion design. He works with clients individually, and his goal is to create something that captures their unique style and ensure exclusivity so they won’t show up at a grand party and find another woman in the same dress. The cost? As they say, if you have to ask you can’t afford it but, they go from approximately $6000 and up.

Victor dE Souza Fall 2019 couture collection
Structured origami silk moire coat

Among the designer’s high profile/celebrity clients: Daphne Guinness, Madonna, Mary J. Blige, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Dakota Johnson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Nicole Kidman, Lupita Nyong’o, Alicia Keyes, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Lopez, Coco Rocha, Steven Klein, James Franco, Steven Klein. FYI, Lupita Nyong’o appeared on the cover of Elle Indonesia in June 2016 wearing his bustier; Naomi Campbell wore his creation in Vogue Portugal, June 2016; Rihanna wore one of his designs on the cover of her Rockstar 101 album cover; and he dressed Dakota Johnson for Saturday Night Live 40, June 20, 2016.

Michelle Harper attends Casita Maria Fiesta at the Mandarin Hotel

The first time I remember seeing one of Victor’s head-turning designs was back in 2009. Michelle Harper, known for her original and fantastical style of dressing (publicist Nadine Johnson once referred to her as “the DNA of cool”) arrived at the Casita Maria Fiesta Gala at the Mondrian Hotel looking drop dead gorgeous in a Victor dE Souza hot pink ball gown with a high ruffled neckline, impossibly tiny waist and voluminous skirt.

Victor dE Souza and Jean Shafiroff at Botanical Garden “Winter Wonderland” Benefit

Since then I have seen many of Victor’s more jaw-dropping designs, most notably on philanthropist, animal rights activist, author, and hostess Jean Shafiroff whose first meeting with the designer would be the beginning of a personal friendship and ongoing creative collaboration.

Indeed, many if not most of Jean’s most memorable looks have been created by Victor who often shows up as her date; he has his own very individual look, and together they make quite a visual statement! Those big ball gowns which he refers to as “’ modern classics” are made for women who are not afraid to stand out in a crowd and want to command attention and make a grand entrance. They have become a calling card for the talented couturier, but they are certainly not the only things he does.

Victor dE Souza Fall 2019 couture collection
Hand embroidery and print Asian tapestry dress with gray wool pleated trousers

On March 31st, dE Souza launched a line of luxurious lipsticks featuring 7 colors, one of which. ‘Mysterious Skin’ inspired his latest couture collection. While considering the soft vintage hues of this shade, and seeing it in contrast to a classic yet modern and edgy component, the idea of this collection started to form.

Victor dE Souza Fall 2019 couture Collection

His other inspirations were the mostly forgotten Tartarian Empire, 18th-century eroticism, and Victoriana. The designer feels strongly that covering up and enabling the body to show through structured couture clothing is mysterious and genuinely erotic.

Victor dE Souza Fall 2019 couture collection
The Romper corset in teal silk duchess satin with hand embroidery stenciled ostrich feathers paired with silk crepe georgette and organza blouse

While there are several stunning floor-length gowns in the collection, the focus is on separates (individual pieces all) and is notable for its clever use of layering which creates a look that is a bit offbeat, eccentric; extravagant, elegant, but quirky.

Victor dE Souza Fall 2019 couture collection
Silk and rayon peplum jacket with organza hand embroidery shorts and chantilly lace dress with hand embroidery beauty mask

Victor accessorized several outfits with feathered headpieces of his own design, and in one case, he added feathers to a bodysuit which was shown over black opaque tights. Of course, feathers are a perennial designer and customer favorites, but as it turns out, they could not be more of the moment given how prominently they figure in the upcoming “Notes on Camp” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute.

Victor dE Souza Fall 2019 couture collection

The exhibit is themed around camp as defined in Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay, “Notes on Camp” which is comprised of 58 bullet points. In number 25, Ms. Sontag observes, “The hallmark of camp is the spirit of extravagance. Camp is a woman walking around in a dress made of three million feathers”. Suffice it to say, there will be at least “three million feathers” on the red carpet of the Met Gala on Monday, May 6th.

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Marilyn Kirschner

I AM A LONG TIME FASHION EDITOR WITH 45 YEARS PLUS EXPERIENCE. AS SENIOR MARKET EDITOR OF HARPER'S BAZAAR FOR 21 YEARS I MET AND WORKED WITH EVERY MAJOR FASHION DESIGNER IN THE WORLD AND COVERED ALL THE MAJOR COLLECTIONS (INCLUDING HAUTE COUTURE) IN NEW YORK, PARIS, MILAN, AND LONDON. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories. AS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF LOOKONLINE, I HAVE BEEN ABLE TO USE MY TRAINED EYE, MY WRITING SKILLS, AND PHOTOGRAPHY.

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