People who make Monaco: Elizabeth Wessel
is an international fashion designer whose artistic endeavours also extend to painting and graphic art. Of Danish and Chilean origin, she grew up in Paris and from an early age was indelibly impressed by the world of design. In 1972 she started the Elizabeth Wessel label and opened her boutique in Paris and the following year won first prize of the Gala de la Presse for her 74 autumn winter collection.
"My parents enjoyed moving between their different homes and for a long time we had a flat in Paris. Each season I went with my mother to see the catwalk shows in the salons of her favourite Haute Couture houses. When I became a teenager, I knew imediately that I wanted to become a fashion-designer." She went on to train at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris, and moved on to design forTorrente. What was that experience like for her?
"I always loved my life in Paris: the atmosphere was so light and playful. My favourite occupation as a schoolgirl was to go to the Haute Couture houses on Saturdays and try on different pieces of their collections - it made me dream. Then later when I finally started working as a fashion designer, I had to use 'l'entrée des fournisseurs', which I thought was hilarious!"
In 1980, Elizabeth established herself in Monaco, where people have always enjoyed the allure of high fashion. "Monte-Carlo used to be a very chic summer resort in those days," recalls Elizabeth. "Now it has become a city, and of course the dress-code has changed accordingly."
But it has also provided her with the chance to exhibit at least twice a year from her new wardrobes, including her beautifully understated spring/summer collection, which is already winning major plaudits. "La Mer du Nord was created in memory of my childhood summers on the Danish coast, the breeze from the sea, the nordic light - it's a little story of a piece of my life," she explains.
Although her reputation is as a designer of clothes, Elizabeth also has also developed her career as a painter cartoonist and travel writer, and is currently showing her work at the 'Arternative Light' exhibition
in Fontvieille and Cap d'Ail. "I'm so thrilled to have been invited to exhibit cartoons from my travel book - so much fun. I never thought that I would show them publicly, but life is full of surprises!"
The exhibit is sponsored by ARCOL - a charity which aims to help children in need through art. Was there any other charitable area she thought requied our attention? "Of course we should all think of helping those who are less fortunate than ourselves. We try to protect the very young and give them a better future but unfortunately very little is done for elderly abandoned people - it's a difficult subject, but one that requires real thought."
Photos by Naneen Rossi