‘Don’t blend into the curtains,’ says Vanessa the dresser

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‘Don’t blend into the curtains,’ says Vanessa the dresser

Vanessa Feltz loves frocks and has launched her own collection line that celebrates colour, comfort and femininity

Louisa Walters is Features Editor at the Jewish News and specialises in food and travel writing

Vanessa in the rose print dress she wore to Chelsea Flower Show
Vanessa in the rose print dress she wore to Chelsea Flower Show

She’s the bubbly blonde broadcaster we see all over Instagram and TikTok, yet Vanessa Feltz didn’t even have a smartphone before the pandemic. “I had no computer, no tablet or anything whatsoever. I had a Nokia. And so I wasn’t on social media. But my children spent lockdown in Ireland, so I had to get online to be able to FaceTime my grandbabies – that’s the only thing I was interested in.”

But then Vanessa found that she was being asked to post and tag by her employers “and when I charmingly and alluringly said ‘I haven’t got a smartphone’, instead of looking enchanted and bewitched by my old fashioned eccentricity, they just looked horrified”. (“I still do actually pay my bills with a cheque in an envelope with a stamp and all that,” she confides.)

Vanessa’s popular Barbara Rosebud dress from her 4Love.UK collection

In January 2022, with “colossal reluctance”, Vanessa set up an Instagram account. “I took to it with tremendous alacrity, and I found that I really enjoyed it.” She also realised that she had a flair for it and the biggest revelation of all was the interest people were showing in her clothes. “They were saying ’I love your dress’ and ‘where did you get your dress?’ and I was absolutely amazed at the sheer volume of interest.”

After a year of noting the dresses that got the biggest response, Vanessa had an idea. The result is her very own clothing line of feminine, colourful and affordable frocks that are stylish and, considerately, many of them have pockets. Newly-single Vanessa also insisted on no fastenings. “We all know what a struggle it is to get a zip done up when we are home alone and trying to rush out the door.”

Vanessa Feltz and businesswoman Linda Plant

Vanessa’s father had been in the underwear business and she had other family members in the rag trade. “I got thinking that if I could develop a range I would know what to do with it. I have a particular look that I like, and key to it is colour.”

Vanessa will wear a black dress – ”but I’d rather not”, she says, adding: “My grandpa would say, ‘You don’t wear a black dress until you’re 80 and even then why would you want to?’

“I remember when my daughters were young, seeing parents sending their 12-year-old girls to batmitzvahs dressed in black and think, ‘What a shame.’”

Vanessa thinks there is too much in life to celebrate for us to wear black. “Jewish people don’t even wear black to the grounds. We’ve absorbed the idea, after living here for however many centuries, so we feel that it would be unsuitable to arrive at a funeral in blue, green or red. I know that the little black dress is considered classic and aspirational, but I don’t really want to wear it.”

Vanessa in the Jasmine Fuchsia dress

Vanessa’s dresses are “stand up and count me dresses – not ones where you blend into the curtains”. She’s certainly not doing that; she has taken on a new role hosting the Saturday afternoon show on LBC, and is delighted that many of her listeners from her BBC Radio 2 show that she hosted from 2011 to 2022 have followed her there. Last month, she announced the launch of her YouTube channel and has been seen broadcasting live from a Buckingham Palace garden party and Taste London food festival. Naturally, she’s in a different dress each time.

“I’ve been delighted to wear them everywhere I go,” she says. “It’s about celebrating life and colour, dressing to make yourself feel good and to make other people say, ‘That’s a pretty dress.’”

Vanessa has always been a flamboyant dresser, but it was after losing a lot of weight and appearing on Celebs Go Dating in September 2023 that we started to see a new style emerge.

“I think most people like something vibrant and colourful and celebratory. It doesn’t have to be a loud, clashing print – it can be gentle and subtle, like the Tilly Vintage Cream Rose dress that I wore to go to the Chelsea Flower Show, which is a very pretty rose print.

Vanessa approached her friend , who has a background in manufacturing and design, and together they approached businesswoman Linda Plant, who co-founded knitwear brand Honeysuckle. “I knew exactly the shape and the fabric and the way I wanted the range to look and also the price point because I didn’t want it to be too expensive – I want women who have to consider what they are spending to be able to buy the dresses.”

Vanessa in the popular Barbara Leopard Dress

The classic dress, the one that Vanessa says “really, really works, people love it” is the Barbara dress. Gently waisted with a V-neck and asymmetrical hem, it shows a little bit of skin at the neck, but not too much, and has arm coverage. “It’s a really good dress. So we have it in lots of colourways and patterns and fabrics and the price is £79. Not too cheap that it looks like it’s cheap, but below the £100 mark.”

They called the brand 4Love and launched it online on 4 December, just in time for Christmas. It sold out so fast that they had to shoot a whole new range a week later. The AW2024 range will include wraps, jackets, faux-fur gilets and sparkly pieces. Dresses are generally available in sizes 8-20, with some styles going up to a 24.

Every Thursday, Linda goes to Vanessa’s home and they do an Instagram live where they show the dresses and talk about what it’s really like wearing them and answer questions.

Vanessa says: “Your choice of dress depends on your lifestyle or how you feel. But I know that for special occasions, formal occasions, informal occasions or even just going out for lunch or whatever you’re doing, putting on a lovely dress is a good feeling.”

WIN! We have a Barbara dress to give away to one lucky Jewish News reader. Click here to enter.



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