From fabric experts to top designers: 10 reasons to buy Belgian fashion – Fashion

Fashion is the best billboard Belgium has ever had, along with chocolate and beer. Our designers are among the absolute top sours in the world. Our substance expertise is often second to none. Therefore, and for many other reasons, it is worth buying Belgians.


COLOR CONFESSBlack, yellow and red are our colors, but in our wardrobe we go much further.1. Coat with floral print (1798 Euro), Dries Van Noten.2. Trousers (179 Euro), Gigue.3. Sleeveless jacket (199 Euro), her.4. Earrings (155 Euro), Souvenirs de Pomme.5. Shirt (179 Euro), Julia June.6. Handbag Tempéte (price on request), Delvaux.7. Fabric sandals (350 Euro), Christian Wijnants.EXPERT TO THE WORDEdouard Vermeulen by Natan’We are known for our colorful designs. Many designers rely on black, but I have chosen different shades for both winter and summer collections from the very beginning. Maybe it’s because my clients tell me that their men don’t really like that black. We’ve replaced it with navy blue, which I call Navy. I like to combine it with ivory, which gives a fresh touch, and I also like moss green and orange, one of our top colors. Above all, we want to create a refined and personal touch in the solid fabrics – which are also typically Belgian – and in the few prints we offer. What is very important is the light: the more sun, the more color we want to wear.” CECI N’EST PAS BELGESurrealism is a Belgian history, also in fashion. In addition to the big names in poetry, painting, literature and cinema, many designers were also inspired by the art movement in fashion, whose work Ceci n’est pas une pipe by Magritte is exemplary. Although fashion remains an applied art, it is also rooted in this movement. In the beginning with the fashion house Norine, supported by Paul-Gustave Van Hecke and Honorine Deschryver, as a promoter of Belgian surrealism, and with René Magritte, poster designer and friend of the house, who set up his works in the Brussels fashion salon. Since then, Belgians have become synonymous with surprising fashion and often fight against stereotypical ideas. Martin Margiela was the first in the series to revolutionize fashion. The double ground, as in surrealism, was never far away. In 2015, Delvaux paid tribute to Magritte with a collection that referenced Magritte’s most important works. “As far as possible,” said the painter, “I make sure that I only make pictures that bring the mystery to life with the necessary precision and enchantment.” The same goes for our designers. MADE IN BELGIUM ‘Made in Belgium’, unfortunately you rarely find it on a label. However, there are still Belgian brands that produce in our country and even have their own workshop. The jewellery brand Wouters & Hendrix is one of them. Fifteen goldsmiths work in their studio in Antwerp. What are the advantages of a Belgian studio? Katrin Wouters: “For us, it has always been a conscious decision to make the jewels in Belgium. In Belgium, we can better check the quality. If we stay in Antwerp, we can follow the production, the matter, the metal, all the details closely. It is impossible to speak the same language as the jewels are made in Asia. Craftsmanship is a very important part of our collections, it makes every jewel unique. You don’t have these random imperfections when you do everything mechanically. We want to continue to feel the handiwork in the jewels and that’s better when we’re in the studio. We can intervene quickly and see how we can work more efficiently. The great thing about a workshop in Antwerp is that we can help our customers quickly. If they have lost half an earring or there has been an accident, we can fix it quickly.” Is it financially feasible to produce here? ‘It’s doable, but it’s a challenge. We insist on supporting and protecting the craft, but we want to remain affordable. Of course, you need to take a good look at how you can save by making production more efficient and optimized. The additional production costs in Belgium outweigh the quality we supply. Customers appreciate the quality and our service and have never really shown that it is out of balance.” Did you have to close the studio because of the lockdown? “Production has been stationary for several weeks. It was a search to be able to restart safely, but with a small cast we start to be back. We have found a system that allows our 15 goldsmiths to work safely and comfortably, and that’s the most important thing.” THE FUTURE IS ASSUREDOur Belgian fashion schools are highly regarded internationally. A breeding ground for young talent. We asked three graduates what their degree means to them. Samuel Quertinmont, La Cambre Brussels, 2019 ‘La Cambre expects a lot from its students, but that makes the school just as extraordinary. The quality it delivers is known at home and abroad. That must have opened doors. At the moment I am working on the pre-collections of Saint-Laurent.” Quinten Mestdagh, Fashion Academy Antwerp 2019 “The high quality that the school expects from its students opens doors. I noticed during job interviews that people were impressed by the strong portfolios. It’s an intense study where you have to work hard to meet these high demands, but it pays off. After my studies, I did an internship in Balenciaga, where they offered me a job in the couture department. I’m currently working on their new project.” Federica Di Leo, Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, 2018 “After completing my bachelor’s degree, I worked for a company in Milan for a year. Then I went back to Antwerp to finish my master’s degree, after which I was immediately offered a job as a print designer and fabric researcher at Prada. Thanks to the show at the end of my Master’s, I got more visibility, the emails poured in. Without the school, I would never have had so many applications and opportunities.” LOVE FOR LINENThe best bed linen in the world can be found in Belgium. And that’s good news, because the country’s crumpled pride has completely lost its corked image. Linen is large in Belgium. We owe this to the long history, the excellent climate for flax cultivation and the selection of handicrafts. “Because we’ve been weaving linen for a long time, we have a lot of know-how,” Sarah Popelier, communications manager at Belgian linen manufacturer Libeco, told the magazine. “Many Belgian linen manufacturers are family-owned companies that pass on their knowledge from generation to generation. In addition, a lot of flax is grown in Belgium, which maintains the link to the raw material.” The fine and airy fabric has many advantages. Linen does not hold back heat, absorbs moisture quickly and releases it immediately. It is up to three times stronger than cotton and also durable. In addition, the typical wrinkles of the fabric are popular with fashion houses. “Linen is a fresh and beautiful material with a natural nonchalance. At the design level, linen doesn’t need much, the material speaks for itself,” says Marleen Eyckerman, designer of Améline by Mayerline. “We regularly use bed linen for our summer collections,” says Nancy Lefebre, a stylist at Marie Méro. “Linen is comfortable to wear, especially when it gets warmer. The color of a linen dress is also very nice. When you dye linen, there is a soft and natural look.” TRICOTTOPPERSBelgen love jersey. No wonder it is part of DNA for many Belgian brands. Expertly speaking: Annique Van de Broek, special jersey by Terre Bleue ‘Tricot comes from the French verb tricoter, or knit. Typical for the jersey stitch is the sequence of small V’s, which you can see when you hold a magnifying glass on the knitting. Unlike a fabric, your design process starts with a single thread. Only when we have determined the stitch and its strength can we think of the design. So it takes a lot of technical know-how. Fortunately, we have them in Belgium. In the past there was also production here, in the area around Sint-Niklaas, but these factories have virtually all disappeared. The know-how is still there. For Terre Bleue, the jersey has always been important. We will go further and further. We no longer only make the classic cardigan or pull, but also skirts, trousers, dresses or, more recently, even a jersey. The possibilities are endless. Winter and summer. A chunky knitted, oversized cardigan over a summer dress, isn’t that great? Jersey will always be warm, comfortable and easy to maintain, so the Belgians love it. The difference from the old days is that they buy it now because it’s just beautiful.” ON THE CATWALKChristian Wijnants is without a doubt the king of the jersey. His talent for handicraft knitwear earned him the International Woolmark Prize 2013, the Andam Award 2006 and the Swiss Textiles Award 2005. FEMALE SHAPE An excellent fit, with respect for the feminine shape, we are known for that. Ann-Christine Bouckaert, the third generation of women at the helm of Caroline Biss, explains why. You claim femininity as the DNA of your collection. Why?’ We started with dresses for customers who loved a feminine look. In the 1980s, when the struggle for freedom and emancipation was raging, we continued this momentum of femininity, but with a contemporary input. What is important in a silhouette? “Everything. The cut, the materials, the portability, the comfort. And all at a fair price. This is our philosophy. Every step has to be true: if the buttons are not sewn properly, the customer does not feel comfortable in them. Even if the piece is 99 percent perfect, these loose knots will irritate. We manufacture our prototypes in Belgium, production takes place in our two factories in Bulgaria and knitting in Hong Kong. We check everything from start to finish to bring top quality. We attach great importance to the cut, pattern and materials, just so that you get a good fit. And we offer different garments, both short and long, so that everyone can create their own silhouette by combining the pieces.” Is the Caroline Biss woman Belgian? “Yes, because the product is Belgian. At the same time, it is also quite international, because you can see that this kind of woman exists almost everywhere. If you look at the different markets, whether Belgium, Italy or Spain, it is the same pieces that are sold the most everywhere. The Caroline Biss woman follows fashion, but interprets trends in her own way. She usually has a job, but not an unlimited budget, so she wants to be able to get the best out of her wardrobe. We meet this need. Especially because every body is different and we respect it.” A GREEN CHOICEVeerle Baert is CEO of Flanders Fashion Design International (FFDI), which includes the Furore, Her., Julia June and Amania Mo brands. Last year, she joined Flanders DC’s Close The Loop program to develop a sustainable strategy. Why did you go down this road? “Without sustainability, there is no future worthy of humanity. For us, this is inextricably linked to quality, which keeps our clothes longer. The ever-faster pace of the fashion industry was not spent on us. In addition, human-oriented work is very important. We want to force respect for the manufacturing industry back to the end of the day. At least 40 people have worked on the one wool sweater you buy: from shepherds to saleswoman. If you think about it, do you expect the same sweater to be worth half the price after six months? Is it a drop on a hot plate? Maybe, but that won’t stop us. It is my responsibility as a person and as an entrepreneur. Fortunately, we are not the only ones who want to make a difference.” What concrete steps have you already taken? “Our wardrobes are now made of recycled pulp and plastic. The next step is to pick them up from our dealers after each season. The same applies to our catalogues. People like to take a catalogue home, but after a day they just throw it on the pile of paper. That’s why we asked our retailers to pass on an exact number to avoid waste. For Julia June we picked up the catalogued catalogues and made notebooks out of them. These are small steps, but they make a difference. On a larger scale, we consciously work on our choice of fabrics and on production. 80 percent of our collection ensoprobissen. Since Furore is a new brand, we could go our way there. For example, the brand has a seasonless, never sold-out collection, because it doesn’t have to be more and newer. The aim is to gradually move to a more sustainable approach with the other brands.” What do you see as the biggest challenge? “I regularly get my head around transport. Where is the balance between online and offline shopping? The consumer is spoiled in this regard: when he orders something, he expects it to be there tomorrow. Free. This model is not only untenable, but also irresponsible. How many additional vans do we send to our already congested roads? In Furore, we have therefore abolished free return. Everyone will have to adapt. Order 10 things and then at best choose one, that’s no longer possible.” HELP A LITTLE BitbelgIa has an exciting creative industry that has struggled in recent months. That’s why Flanders DC is launching a campaign to help our creative businesses and entrepreneurs and encourage people to buy Belgians. You can take this “hand” literally: color, stickers or paint your hand and share a photo on social media with the hashtag #IkKoopBelgisch. From 10 June, you can browse the website of Ik Koop Belgian to your heart’s content. ibudebelgisch.beZBLACKSit is the colour of mourning, but also of elegance. From the Goths, but also from the Belgians. Ann Demeulemeester has made it her trademark, but also the work of designers like Haider Ackermann and Olivier ‘the Gothic Prince’ Theyskens regularly goes dark. BELGIUM’S FINESTThey make the front pages of the world press and put our country from the wings on the world map. Our designers and fashion professionals are among the absolute top brands in the world. Some have worked hard for years, others have worked hard. We show ten, even if the election is lost.