Inspiring Woman Camille Liebaert

"My mother is the first person I go to for advice"

In no time at all, she introduced the world to a hip athleisure brand—a brand that seamlessly combines both sport and fashion, and design and technology. Camille Liebaert, the youngest scion of the Belgium-based textile manufacturer Liebaert, runs the Recto Verso sports brand with tonnes of enthusiasm and passion. Xandres has teamed up with this Inspiring Woman and is set to launch a limited edition of sports leggings and tops. Cool, sustainable and 100% made in Belgium! Specially for Mother's Day we met—remotely—with Camille and the most inspiring woman in her life, her mother Micheline De Graeve.

At the Liebaert family home, Mother's Day is invariably celebrated with a lovely brunch and a carefully chosen present. This year, the brunch will probably be followed by a game of volleyball. "Since lockdown, it has been our family's favourite way of releasing physical energy", says Camille. "We play every weekend."

Camille grew up as the only daughter in a family of four children. She has been working with her brother and father in the family business Liebaert Textiles for a few years now. Within the textile company fold, she runs the edgy athleisure brand Recto Verso. And although her mother always remained more behind the scenes, she is a lodestar for our Inspiring Woman in both her professional and private life.

On the same wavelenght

How do you get along as mother and daughter? Do you see each other often?

Camille Liebaert: "We often do things together and we usually speak on the phone at least once a day. Since Liebaert is a family business, we are frequently in touch to discuss professional matters. Even though my mother doesn't have an active day-to-day role in the business, she has been my father's right-hand woman for years. I can always go to her for advice, including advice on Recto Verso."

Micheline De Graeve: "I provide a different perspective because I don't work at the company every day. An outsider's point of view can sometimes be helpful."

 

In what scenario would you ask her for advice?

Camille: "She is my go-to person, especially when something not particularly nice happens—a negative experience with a supplier, for instance. I recently went to look at a space with a view to setting up a pop-up there. My mother couldn't come with me, but I FaceTimed her. She has a very realistic view of things and asks questions that I wouldn't always think of asking."

"We're also on the same wavelength when it comes to taste and style. We're the same dress size: we swap clothes every fortnight (laughs). And, of course, she is the first person I ring for useful life hacks, like how to wash something, for example."

Inspiring in a different way

Camille, when we asked you to name inspiring women in your life, your mother was the first person you thought of. Why and in what way do you find her inspiring?

Camille: "My mother chose to stay at home and give up her career to give her four children and husband every opportunity to grow. That is a choice which might not be viewed in a particularly positive light or appreciated nowadays. We live in an age of feminism, where the career woman is presented as the ideal. I think that's great, but it does mean people sometimes look askance at housewives. My mother stepped aside for altruistic reasons. I love that."

 

Micheline, does Camille inspire you with the choices she makes?

Micheline: "Yes, I think the path that Camille has chosen is admirable. She started studying business engineering, but quickly realised it wasn't really her thing. She started her career with Delhaize, working in America for a while. After that, though, she moved decisively in a different direction. She retrained as a barista and did a graphic design and photography course. That was not an obvious choice: she was on a personal quest to find out what she really wanted to do professionally, aside from her studies. I admire that and find it inspiring. That way, she discovered the creative component in her life. In her job with Recto Verso she can now combine the two: the creative and business components."

" I'm very impressed by the body positivity message Xandres Gold sends out"

Collaboration of Belgian origin

Camille, what was your reaction when Xandres asked you to work with them for the Inspiring Women range?

Camille Liebaert: "I was instantly excited. Like Recto Verso, Xandres is a Belgian brand. We are both incredibly proud of Belgian craftsmanship, we put women centre stage and we work hard to ensure every aspect of our brand and company is sustainable. We therefore have much in common."

"We actually inspire each other: Xandres admires the fact that everything we produce is 100% Belgian-made and I'm very impressed by the body positivity message Xandres Gold sends out. Our high-quality leggings are not reserved solely for slim models; curvier women can look just as good in our sportswear. The strong fabric flatters every figure and will never become see-through. I also plan to provide a better image of the various different body types Recto Verso will suit in photographs, on social media, etc. Just like Xandres Gold."

Leggings with extras

How did Recto Verso's and Xandres's sports outfit take shape?

Camille: "The leggings are one of the stars of the Recto Verso collection. They look fantastic and provide added value. A special technology, which converts body heat into infrared rays, has been incorporated into the yarn. The fabric stimulates the blood flow and has a positive impact on the skin and recovery. Together with the Xandres design team, we created leggings with a cool typo print and a T-shirt to go with them."

Is the sports outfit made entirely in Belgium?

Camille: "It certainly is. Recto Verso is a project of the fabric manufacturer Liebaert Textiles [a family business in Deinze founded by Camille's great-great-grandfather]. We have been manufacturing our products in Belgium for 133 years and stubbornly continue to do so, even though it has cost us a fair bit of business. Lots of customers went abroad for production a decade ago. We stood our ground through, although it meant we had to innovate and explore other markets. That's how our own collection came into being."

"The entire production process takes place in Belgium"

Expensive? Sustainable!

It's occasionally said that Recto Verso sportswear is expensive compared with other brands. For instance, a pair of leggings costs 165 euro. What sets them apart from others?

Camille: "We use European yarns and the entire production process takes place in Belgium. Our fabrics are expensive because we focus on innovation; we can develop any colour you like, for instance, and because our production takes place in Belgium. The garments are also made in Belgium. As a business we have launched many initiatives: a water treatment plant, solar panels, a recycling system, the list goes on. This way we ensure our production process is sustainable. By conducting tours of our company premises we try to show customers the efforts we are making. Awareness-raising is a slow process, through."

Curious about the Xandres x Recto Verso sportswear?