Inspiring Women

Xandres had the honour to meet several powerful ladies from the world of sports, fashion, music and more. Discover all the interviews.


for Xandres

“A minimal gesture, with maximum effect.” That’ s the least you can say about our new “Inspiring Women” collab. For their sixth collaboration, Xandres approached collar-creator, stylist and fulltime optimist Liesbeth Diels. For the last two years, she and her brand Lillirooz have enabled people to create the ‘ collar-effect’ without bulking up their outfit with a shirt. Liesbeth spent several years teaching language classes to Brussels’ youth before taking the first steps towards her fashion dream job by working as a marketer and building her confidence to take on the styling part of photoshoots. “It felt like coming home,” she says. At least, in the beginning it did. After a short and intense learning period, she decided to take matters into her own hands and declare professional independence. Since then, she’ s become the go-to stylist for several celebs and her Lilirooz collars can be spotted on many famous and not-so-famous women in Belgium and beyond. It’ s the perfect time to introduce the exclusive and limited edition “Lilirooz for Xandres” collar. We meet up in her beautiful, Pinterest-worthy loft / design studio to talk about her passions and her road to success.

What inspired you to start your own label?

A few years ago, I ventured out to become a freelance stylist and personal shopper. By analysing and discussing women’ s wardrobes, I felt the need these women had to shine in their own unique way. Some women like to ‘ give it all they’ ve got’ , while others prefer to use subtle accents. I used to buy a lot of shirts, but that was because I liked collars, not the shirts per se. Most people also have a shortage of space: their closets are full. I wanted to create something small with a specific feel-good factor. I didn’ t want to start another label because I wanted to “do something in fashion”. I asked myself: “What can I do for the many women who don’ t feel good about themselves?” I soon found out a simple thing like a pretty collar can make a woman a lot more confident.

Where does the name ‘ Lilirooz’ come from?

My eldest daughter is called ‘ Amélie-Rooz’ and my youngest one is named ‘ Lili-Loïs’ . During my first pregnancy, I started a blog about Belgian fashion and it was called “Lilirooz”. When I pulled the plug on the blog, I kept the name. It had become part of me.

Were you already playing around with the idea of creating and selling your own designs when you decided to be professionally independent?

I wasn’ t thinking about designing, more about styling. I had gained a lot of experience as a stylist during my day job so I just approached good stores to offer them a custom photoshoot. I was able to collaborate with some great photographers. That’ s how I met Noémie Wolfs. She asked me to collaborate on her look for her album visuals. Aside from that, I often get booked by women who want to look at their wardrobe with me so we can optimize, determine their strongest style pieces and find out what they’ re still missing. Those experiences ultimatelyled me to the idea of designing collars.

Your collars are designed in Belgium and produced in Europe. How important is durability and your ecological footprint to you?

I’ ve always been into durability, but like most people, I know we can do better. I want to feel good about what I do, tell an honest story without any unnecessary stress or guilt. There are certain aspects to the fashion industry that can keep you up at night. As a stylist, I tried to make it my trademark to mainly work with Belgian brands. I’ m now on the same path with the Lilirooz collars. Like you said, they are designed in Belgium and produced in Europe. I’ ve tried to keep everything completely local, but that would jack up the selling price way too much.

Your designs are worn by several Belgian celebrities. How did that come about?

During my styling projects, I met so many people and with some of them it just clicked. The fact that Noémie Wolfs, Julie Van den Steen and Veerle De Dobbelaere all started wearing my designs was just something that happened naturally. I met Petra De Pauw through social media: another instant match. I contacted Véronique Leysen through my press agency and now the baristas of her coffee bar Maurice are also wearing Lilirooz collars.

Let’ s talk about “Lilirooz for Xandres”, the new “Inspiring Women”collaboration. Tell me about the moment Xandres contacted you.

I was surprised, because when I got their first email, I had only released a single collection. Turns out, Xandres didn’ t know it was my first one. Looking back, that was pretty funny. I’ ve known about Xandres for a long time, of course. But I have to say, I always thought the Xandres style to be more on the classic side. But it’ s really not! I had the opportunity to take a look behind the scenes and that was a real eye-opener for me. I really like the vision behind Xandres: the fact that there are collections being designed for all women and the focus on “Inspiring Women”. I feel it’ s important for Lilirooz to collaborate with women I believe in and I found that same belief in Xandres.

Did you have any doubts before you decided to collaborate?

When my intuition says “Yes,” I’ m all the way in. Of course, I did some research first to see whether my story fits the Xandres story. But like I said: your vision is my vision so saying “No” would not have been a smart move.

How did you come up with the idea to use Swarovski-crystals for the “Lilirooz for Xandres” collar?

Xandres showed me their Fall/Winter 2017 collection and I was inspired by the fabrics and colours. As a stylist, I often go to the ‘ press days’ where fashion brands show their collection a full season before they land in the shops and that’ s where I got to know Swarovski better. I just thought it would be a good idea to use them as an eye catcher for this collaboration.

The Xandres FW17 collection was inspired by the battle cry “Forward, march!”We can all use that kind of encouragement when the days grow longer and colder. You like to surround yourself with positive quotes, too...

I do! If you ask me who inspires me, I couldn’ t tell you any names. But I think people with a positive attitude are just incredible. I used to be a real pessimist. I’ ve been through some things, personally, so I really had to teach myself to look at life in a more optimistic way and to trust my gut feeling. It’ s amazing how many people I’ ve met and how many doors have opened for me in such a short time. A few years ago, I couldn’ t have even dreamt about this. On top of all that, I’ ve got two daughters, the eldest is nine and the youngest is in the first grade. They hear so many opinions and they are becoming aware of what they look like at such a young age. I don’ t think that’ s OK. That’ s why I wanted to create something that makes everybody feel good. When you’ re wearing a collar, you don’ t have to worry about how your butt looks.

Do we have to think of the “Lilirooz for Xandres” collar as a kind of jewellery?

They used to say you should save expensive outfits for special occasions. As a stylist, I tell people the opposite: “Wear those valuable pieces as much as you can!”So yes, you can think of our collars as jewellery, but only if your wear them often and combine them with everything!”


by Hampton Bays

Hampton Bays is celebrating its 25th anniversary with a capsule collection by top model Elise Crombez. To say Elise has a special bond with Hampton Bays is something of an understatement.

"When Hampton Bays asked me to create a capsule collection, I didn't hesitate for a second,' said Elise. 'At the very start of my career, aged 17, the company chose me to be the face of Hampton Bays. It was my very first overseas shoot. I still remember the wonderful location in the hills on the Irish coast. My grandma kept the campaign photos on her mantelpiece for years! I'm very happy and honoured that Hampton Bays has invited me to celebrate their anniversary with a collaboration."

What is the collection based on?

"I started with a mood board. I also have a Tumblr account that I use to collect sources of inspiration. "90's Woman" is my latest muse, which was always the image I aspired to while I was growing up. I'm not an easy shopper. I'm happy to pay a little extra for quality, but I won't fritter away my entire monthly budget on clothes. For me, less is more. I think it's better to have a few really nice items of clothing that I can combine in many different ways. I really like the motto "end your day the way you started it." Ideally, you should be able to go out to dinner in the evening wearing the clothes you went shopping in that afternoon."

Is this collection a reflection of you?

"Oh yes, it perfectly encapsulates how I like to dress. Colours and prints aren't really my thing. I'm much more into quality materials like cashmere. I love draping myself in it on cold mornings. The long cashmere skirt and matching open-backed sweater are my favourites. The open back is very sexy and the skirt is comfortable, warm, and feminine all at the same time. The monocolour wool outfits are available in white, camel, grey, and black. Black is a no-brainer for me, as it's so easy to combine with other items of clothing. Grey too. The collection also features the ultimate white T-shirt with exquisite finishing, as well as two silk scarves."

You really like foulards...

"Yes, I get that from my mother: silk scarves are her favourite fashion accessory. To her, they're as essential as lipstick. My aunt is an artist, and when I was a child, I remember she used to paint silk scarves. I like to wear foulards, too. I really like to pimp an ordinary sweater or T-shirt with a colourful scarf, and sometimes I wear foulards in my hair. They also give me a bit of privacy when I'm travelling by air."

"Both of the foulards in the collection are based on inspiring women in my life. One of them features a print of a photo taken by Jan Opdekamp featuring me and Charlotte Gesquière by the sea. I love the colours of the sand, and this photo is very symbolic to me. Several years ago, I worked for Hampton Bays again on the same beach where I grew up. I still go jogging there when I'm back in the country, and often go there to stand on the breakwater and scream my heart out!The second scarf features a print of a work of art by my friend Emily Jean Snyder. I think the colours are very beautiful and fresh. Emily is a wonderful woman with a unique style."

Has your style changed over time?

"In the days when I was constantly having my hair or make-up done, I rarely bothered to do anything with my looks in my free time. However, over the years, I've increasingly come to enjoy being creative with my looks and daring to be different. I like to try out new looks and rediscover clothes given to me by designers over the years. Clothes allow you to be who you are or who you want to be, and who that is changes every single day. My clothes allow me to discover every version of myself. I also really like seeing people wearing original outfits."

Has this collaboration awakened your creative instincts?

"Oh yes, since this collection I've started to play around with clothes that have been hanging in my closet for too long: add a bit here, remove a bit there. And I've got much bigger plans, too. I'll soon be swapping Los Angeles for New York. And as soon as I get my Green Card, I'll be throwing myself into absolutely everything that comes my way. Maybe it's in my nature to skip from project to project. I often wonder if modelling made me this way or if this is how I've always been. Which came first, the chicken or the egg?!"


Caroline Pauwels is Rector of the VUB. Social responsibility and engagement are strategic goals in her vision on the university’s role in society. Ms Pauwels is very attached to Brussels, which she refers to as “a cosmopolitan city with challenges, but mainly a lot of opportunities”. A mother of two, she particularly enjoys eating with friends, swimming and culture in her spare time.

What drives you in your job?

“People and science. That’s how I put it in my election campaign for the position of rector, better science for a better world. I am convinced that social responsibility and engagement are vital for a university. And I love the positive vibes you get at university. You’re surrounded by young people, students, for whom everything is still possible.”

How do you plan to make a difference in your job?

“The name VUB (or Free University Brussels) includes three core values around which I develop my policy. The first is freedom. And that freedom, including freedom in scientific research, is coming under increasing pressure. A scientist from the VUB was recently condemned to death in Iran, so freedom is more relevant than ever. The second concept is university or the scientific world. It’s a collective project, based on sharing knowledge. Together we continue to build knowledge that serves society. The third concept is Brussels, a city with a lot of challenges, but mainly opportunities. It’s easier to turn students into citizens of the world in a city like Brussels where you find a mixture of cultures. Our location in Brussels is a plus. The solidarity of the university with the city is important too.”

What do you think is the nicest aspect of your job?

“I think it’s a privilege to be the Rector of the VUB. It’s a tremendously varied job. One day you meet a Nobel Prize-winner, and the next you’re dealing with mobility or HR policy issues. I get to work with passionate people day in day out, in an environment full of young students whose driving force in life is a tremendous eagerness and desire to learn something new.”

You made the news recently when you launched the idea of a quota for women professors. Why do you think that’s necessary?

“It’s a topic I’ve been discussing with friends for a long time, one I’ve had my doubts about for quite some time. It was a difficult decision. Currently, 28% of the VUB’s professors are women, putting our university well ahead of other universities. But we noticed that this figure had increased just 1%, from 27 to 28%, in the last ten years, whereas we had set ourselves the target of having 33% women professors by 2021. At the rate we’re going we won’t reach it. That’s why we decided to make our target compulsory. One out of three professors must be a woman. In any event, diversity is not limited to the ratio of women to men. I think it’s important in every domain. Ideally there should be more people from an immigrant background, more people with disabilities, and so on, at the university. We’re taking the necessary measures and trying to provide the right stimuli.”

How do you balance family and a busy professional life?

“By making time for friends, nature, culture and sport. I go swimming every day and I really need that hour of sport to feel good. I also get a lot of energy from evenings with friends. I enjoy dinners with friends. The menu doesn’t really matter per se. It’s the conversations I love. The writer Karel Van De Woestijne once wrote that he considered the evenings with friends in Latem to be an unusual luxury, and that is exactly how I feel. I also recharge my batteries by making time for culture, going to exhibitions, plays, for books, poetry, films, etc.”

What books do you have on your bedside table at the moment?

“Because of my long workdays there is less time for reading. But I do try to read a bit every day. If I’m very tired I just open a book of poetry. At the moment, I’m reading a collection of poems by Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer. I read one or two poems till I find one that moves me, or one I can identify with. Apart from that, I’m reading several books at the moment: Een goede man slaat soms zijn vrouw by Joris Luyendijk, and How to resist: Turn Protest to Power, by Matthew Bolton.”

Do you think clothes are important? Do you follow Belgian fashion?

“Yes, I’m proud of Belgian fashion. I see fashion as an expression of culture. I think Belgium produces a lot of beautiful things in various domains. I started following fashion as a student in Antwerp – during the period of the Antwerp Six. And I admire Belgian fashion entrepreneurship. I personally prefer a casual style to which I add a little flourish, like the ankle boots with a flower motif that I’m wearing today with an otherwise plain black outfit. I like an outfit to have a bit of an edge. In my opinion, fashion should also be sustainable and fair, so I prefer to avoid overly cheap shopping chains. I believe in local consumption and I want to support the local, Belgian economy.”

Xandres chose you as an inspiring woman. Which women do you find inspiring?

“The philosopher Hannah Arendt and the writers Karen Blixen and Virginia Woolf have been my virtual friends for many years. I’ve read just about everything by and about these women. All three of them have undertaken a journey to freedom, each in their own way. I find that very Inspiring. These days I also admire women like the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, and the way she takes on the Facebooks and Googles of this world. Someone like the current CEO of the Belgian national railways, Sophie Dutordoir, is equally inspiring. They are women who focus on their goal and go for it. Their style is no-nonsense determination, but always with a smile.”

There’s a definite appeal to the story of three sisters that start a business together to make a sustainable, hand-made product from scratch.Atelier Feryn

Fashion photographer

In early 2016, she was already tipped as a talented young photographer by Tiany Kiriloff in the online fashion and lifestyle magazine, At Xandres, too, we immediately noticed Elien Jansen’s imagery - and her use of colour in particular. Even though she has yet to graduate, this talented young lady is already winning accolades in the fashion world. We would like to introduce the young photographer who has made such beautiful pictures of our capsule collections in recent months.

When did you know you wanted to be a photographer?

“I started studying photography at art school in Hasselt, about seven years ago. After that I enrolled at Narafi in Brussels to continue my studies and I began to specialise in fashion. Soon I realised that fashion really was my thing.”

What was it that attracted you to fashion photography?

“I’m particularly attracted by photographing people, by picturing people in a very specific way. In fashion photography people are manipulated a lot. I think it’s fun to search for the limits – to make the unnatural look natural.”

You’ve been combining your photography studies with paid assignments for quite a while. How do you manage that?

“Initially, it was difficult to find a balance. But I don’t have many classes this year, mainly work experience, so it’s a bit easier to plan. I can usually schedule my professional assignments a few weeks in advance and my work placement is happy to take them into account. So it’s not too difficult to combine them.”

I feel like I’m making my dreams come true.

Which project are you most proud of so far?

“It’s difficult to choose. The shoots for Xandres have given me a real boost. I’ve been given new assignments because of them and I’ve often received positive feedback about the result. Belmodo is an important source of work for me too. Tiany Kiriloff was quick to notice my work. It’s thanks to her that I got this far and that I was able to build up a lot of valuable contacts in the fashion world.”

How would you characterise your style?

“I think my style is very feminine, and innovative or refreshing. I always opt for lots of colour. I think the locations where I photograph are very important. I want the concept to be totally coherent. So I often help look for the perfect place for the image the client wants to create. That’s very important in my photos. The location has to be a perfect match for the style of clothing.”

What is the most exceptional location you have ever photographed in?

“As far as nature goes, it was Cap Blanc-Nez in France. I did a shoot there for a free work assignment and I was really impressed. In terms of architecture I really loved Den Bell in Antwerp. It’s an office building with a gigantic staircase that looks really impressive, especially if you take photos from above looking down. And in Genk there’s a sports centre where the changing rooms and showers are all in pink. The place is very chic, but I’d rather not share it. Location hunting is one of the important aspects of my job and I don’t want to reveal all my secrets.” She laughs.

Xandres chose you as an inspiring woman. Who do you think is an inspiring woman?

“I think make-up artist Nanja Massy is an inspiring businesswoman. The way she manages her career is impressive. She works for Belmodo too and has published a book about how to do your own make-up. In barely two years she’s become such an important face on the make-up scene in Flanders. She’s really driven and has tons of charisma. Looking around in the photography world I think Annie Leibovitz is an absolute source of inspiration. She has really made it. In the fashion industry models like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner are women I look up to. And on the Belgian fashion scene I think Tiany Kiriloff is inspiring. She’s very likeable, nice and friendly to work with.”

What projects are you dreaming about now?

“My dream for the coming (half) year is to be able to shoot an editorial abroad for a fashion brand. I’d like to go abroad with a brand to photograph it on location. A couple of months ago I got a request to go and take photos in Cape Town, but circumstances prevented me from accepting at the time. I hope that I’ll be able to do the regular editorial shoot for a few (fashion) brands within the next five years.”

What’s your motto in life?

“I don’t really have one. People always tell me I’m so busy. But I enjoy taking photos and working on them, so it doesn’t feel like work to me. It’s a passion. I feel like I’m making my dreams come true. I just go for it! Is that a motto?”

What’s your own style of dress?

“I don’t really have one specific style. Sometimes I dress very casually. You’ll never see me on high heels during a photo shoot for example. But it’s different during a presentation. It depends on the situation. I mix and match all kinds of brands, from items from budget chains to more expensive collections. I go for prints mainly and combine them with minimalistic items.”

Besides photography – and studying photography – you’re working on Studio Aélys, a project to put a creative spotlight on second-hand clothes. What do you want to achieve with it?

“Studio Aélys is a project with friends. We want to upgrade second-hand clothes. We look for second-hand materials that we give a remake. Then we do a photo shoot with them and post it to our Instagram account. Our intention is to surprise people and show them how nice and attractive second-hand clothes can be. We hope to sell the clothes too at some point. Second-hand is really on trend at the moment, but second-hand and vintage items are often much too expensive. We want to keep the prices accessible. Actually, it’s our way of really giving second-hand clothes a second chance.”


Brussels-based designer

The fifth Xandres “Inspiring Women”-collab is here: the “Cumulus for Xandres” cape, designed in collaboration with Brussels-based designer Françoise Pendville, is a unique medley of the typically Belgian feel for the practical and an unconditional love of elegance. Pendville doesn’t have an average background. She made plenty of sacrifices and tough decisions to be able to create her beloved “Cumulus” collection – a stylish and detailed series of waterproof designs – on her own terms. The wonderful “Cumulus by Françoise Pendville for Xandres” cape is undeniable proof of what you can achieve when you have faith in your abilities (and in the fickle nature of the weather in Belgium). We meet up with the designer in her “Cumulus” atelier and talk about her atypical, steep ascent and how she’s able to find balance in her life, time and time again.

How did the collaboration come about?

Hilde De Vrieze (Xandres CFO, Ed.) was shopping in my store in Brussels, in the Dépôt Design space, when she came over to tell me she’d been following my work and she was a fan. We got to chatting and I told her about my love for raincoats and capes, how my “Cumulus” brand came about and how I also work on other collections. She said: “Oh really? That’s interesting. I’ll mention that at Xandres, because that’s where I work.” She kept her promise and apparently the other Xandres-managers thought it was interesting, too.

Did you have any doubts about blending “Cumulus” with Xandres?

Oh, no. My motto is: all collaborations are interesting. I also felt very honoured to be part of the Xandres “Inspiring Women” club, because it shows you’ve got a story to tell. Xandres is a brand with a particular Belgian essence. It also stands for style, quality and an eye for detail, all things very important to me. Xandres tell stories, too, just like I do. My clients love to hear about how I create my collections.

When we find out what’s inside of us and what we really should be doing, there is enormous power in that.

Tell me about the "Cumulus by Françoise Pendville for Xandres" cape that will be available in the spring of 2017.

Well, my own collection features raincoats, capes and several other rain-accessories. Xandres was very interested in the aspect of the ‘urban traveller’. These days, we can go to Paris for a day to check out a museum exhibit or we pop over to Venice for three days. I leave my house in the morning, I go to work, and in the evening I swing by a gallery opening and meet a friend. Every day is different. When we leave our house to start the day, we put some thought into which pieces of clothing we need to take, what the weather will be like… You can always take my raincoats and capes because they’re light and come with a small bag you can put in your purse. Freedom! Initially we weren’t sure whether to do a raincoat or a cape. We chose the cape because it fits all. What I fight for –and this is also true for Xandres- is elegance in everyday life. So we shortened the cape and made some adjustments to the details on the ribbons. The “Cumulus for Xandres” cape is a piece that looks great on top of a Xandres outfit. I can go to work, attend a meeting and if it rains: no problem, I just throw on my cape. I always say my capes are perfect for both going to the opera and mushroom picking.

Could you talk a bit about how you started your own brand?

I didn’t study fashion, actually. I used to be a teacher in a Freinet school. I loved it, but one day when I was on the playground, standing out in the rain, I had an idea. I thought to myself: “I’m always outside. I could really use a waterproof coat that looks good on me, because it doesn't exist.” So I made one myself. I had already made raincoats for kids that were easy to button up. I started selling them and soon I had a business that was picking up speed. Some of the buyers asked for more variety, so I started designing pants, knitwear…

Before I knew it, I was surrounded by a team, churning out a collection each season. The creative process is wonderful but once the clothing needs to live in the outside world, you run into production restrictions, commercial needs… You have to move fast. After a while I lost my faith in that process. I wanted to make something more timeless. That’s when I returned to my first love: raincoats. I wanted to put some serious thought into my pieces: I wanted them to be practical, enduring pieces you can take with you wherever you go. It’s a conscious decision to make a higher quality product. Xandres does that, too. You have to focus on what you do best and in my case that’s what I create under the “Cumulus” brand.

What was it like to transition from a relatively safe job as a teacher to a more uncertain profession as an independent designer?

It was pretty difficult. I loved my job and I had tenure. But it came to a point where my husband said: “Look, if this is what you want to do, then just do it.” I quit, but I continued to teach at night school for a while, only part-time. It wasn’t long before I really made up my mind, though. I said to myself: “I’m making a final decision now, while I still love what I do and I still have energy left.” If you go on until you hit a wall, until you’re too tired to continue, you don’t have the energy to start afresh. I don’t know what will happen ten years down the line. A lot of people around me are retiring. I already know I’m going to keep working for as long as possible. I really enjoy it. I feel more freedom than ever. I used to worry about not being there for my children all the time because of my career, missing out on making schoolbook covers, dropping them off at the school gates on their first day… But later on they told me they were actually really proud of how I worked so hard and built my business.

You’re a mother, a designer, you have your own shop, your own atelier and your collections. How do you find some kind of balance for yourself?

From the moment I was no longer surrounded by a team structure and the children were a bit older, I consciously started pursuing more cultural interests: cinema, the theatre, travel… We own a small house in Senegal, close to the ocean. It’s quiet there, so I can really relax. I’ve registered myself at the Bosvoorde academy recently. I’m taking classes in engraving and etching. It’s a meditative practice for me. I don’t have to talk to anyone if I don’t feel like it. Sometimes people ask me if I’m going to sell my engravings or etchings. No way! I just want to move forward, get better. There’s no end goal. It’s all about the creative process. When I’m at the movies, at a concert, when I’m out in the woods or in art-class: that’s when the ideas come. That’s when I can breathe. I really need that.

Your shop is in Brussels and your atelier is in Schaerbeek. Have you been living in the capital for long?

I’ve lived in Brussels my whole life and I never want to move anywhere else. It’s such a multicultural city and it feeds the mind. It’s so great to be just 200km away from another country. If I need new ideas today, I can take the train to Maastricht or London and be back the same evening. Some of my friends who live abroad really envy me for it.

Which women have always inspired you?

Women like Marie Curie. Or Grace Kelly and her fascinating elegance. Sometimes it’s the women that surround me, when I see them flourishing. My sister-in-law lived in the Corsican mountains when her baby was very little, without water or electricity. She had to struggle, working and following courses at the same time, but she did it. Now she’s living a great life. Very inspiring. Life is short. When we find out what’s inside of us and what we really should be doing, there is enormous power in that.

As from February 17th in all Xandres & Xandres xline brand stores & online, as long as stocks last (only 100 pieces)


3 creative brains behind the young handbag label Feryn

We’re kicking off the new season of “Inspiring Women” by having a sit-down with the 3 creative brains behind the first Xandres-collab of 2016: Lize, Mira and Yanne of the young handbag label Feryn. Together, they created the beautiful design for the limited edition, hand-cut and hand-sewn “Atelier Feryn for Xandres” clutch. This threesome inspires us all by setting the example for the way Millennials can do business: with quick decisions, the best use of new media and a high regard for the craft and for established brands like Xandres. Because these extremely driven twentysomethings –by their own admission- were inspired and encouraged by their own mother, who they lost only a few weeks prior to this interview, we would like to add Mama Feryn to our list of “Inspiring Women” as the original DIY-star. The way she taught her daughters to fearlessly handle machines and material still shines through today in their original approach and in the quality of their designs.

Please tell me about your love for the craft.

Yanne : I think we were raised on it. Our mom used to do everything herself. Not just making clothes, but also renovating the house, doing carpentry…

Lize : When we travelled, for example, we did it in a mini-van that our mom had completely remodelled so 5 people could sleep or eat inside. She did all the carpentry, made the mattresses… In the morning, you could change the interior into a breakfast table. There were levels to it: I slept in a hammock above everyone else.

Yanne : She allowed us to work with her sowing machine at a very young age. Lize made her outfit for her communion party all by herself. How many twelve-year-olds can say that? And how many moms would allow it?

There’s a definite appeal to the story of three sisters that start a business together to make a sustainable, hand-made product from scratch.

Did you give up a steady job to start Feryn?

Mira : Yanne was a kindergarten teacher and I was a freelance graphic designer.

Lize: I still work as an actress.

Yanne: All three of us went to an arts high school, but I needed more security and wanted to work with kids, so kindergarten was the logical choice. I did that full time for four years. I loved it, but when I got pregnant twice in a short period of time, I was legally obligated to stop working and I stayed at home for quite a long time. Meanwhile, Mira was getting tired of working in graphic design and in that same period, the space that now houses Feryn was being built. Initially, it was meant to be a kind of recreational space. Our parents wanted to clean up the “shacks” on their property. The three of us -and our mother- were doing a course in leather treatment. That’s how it became clear that this was the perfect timing to make the jump.

You took it seriously from the very beginning, so you had a webshop up and running by October 2015. A smart move, since some of the Feryn designs sold out quickly. Even though people increasingly do their shopping online, some designers still prefer the traditional windows for display. What made you decide to do it your way?

Yanne: We wanted to make sure there were as little steps in between the atelier and the clients as possible. We really wanted to make the bags ourselves instead of outsourcing, so we need to be able to oversee the entire process as much as possible.

Lize: We also want to be an open atelier. Of course, there are the limited collections. Of those designs, only five bags will be available. The bags will be numbered, so the customer can see how many items we’ve sold already. But we also have the ‘Custom Made’ section of our webshop. You choose a design and then you can customise it: choose the colours, the number of inside pockets, an engraving… We want to encourage our customers to be creative and we are often pleasantly surprised. For example, one man recently had a love letter engraved in a bag for his wife.

Did you expect to be this successful?

Mira: It was difficult to anticipate. We did set up an official Facebook page before the launch so we could show what we were doing.

Lize: At the time of our launch, the TV-series “Voor wat hoort wat” came out. I had one of the leading roles in it and I had to do a lot of press. People often asked me about my life and those were perfect opportunities to mention our label. There’s a definite appeal to the story of three sisters that start a business together to make a sustainable, hand-made product from scratch.

Do you owe some of your success to social media?

Mira: Absolutely. We always keep our Facebook and Instagram pages up to date. When we made the Xandres bag for example, we posted something every day about how the clutch was evolving.

Lize: Our customers are from all over the country; so the Internet is the perfect place to discover us. We’re in Deerlijk, so clearly we can’t depend on passers-by. Because we make personalised bags, it makes more sense to take a picture and say something about it on social media.

Tell me about the collaboration with Xandres. How did that go?

Lize: So smooth! We got the information about the Xandres Spring/Summer 16 collection a few months ago and they showed us moodboards and some of the studio photography. The three of us started looking for recurring colours in different collections. We also noticed the differences in texture. That’s why we combined different kinds of leather in the clutch design.

Yanne: We started out by sketching a few designs. Then a team from Xandres stopped by to define the design and the colours. We chose the ‘nude’ leather as the core colour right away. After that, we turned to the leather merchants to find unique kinds of leather. Finally, we presented the combinations we loved the most. Xandres agreed right away.

What do you hope to achieve with this collaboration in the long term?

Lize: People associate Xandres with a certain level of quality. I hope people now also associate Feryn with that level.

What’s the hardest about working together as sisters?

Lize: We’ve always been great friends and our mother was worried that when we would become business partners, there would be trouble.

Mira: It’s a question of give and take. There are days when Yanne works more than I do.

Yanne: But Mira creates more in a shorter amount of time and Lize helps design the collections, choose the fabric and she generates priceless visibility.

Mira: I often work on the graphic stuff in the evenings. We totally trust each other.

Yanne: We have a heated discussion from time to time, but it always passes quickly. There are families where issues are more bottled up or the tension suddenly erupts.

Lize: We just blurt things out.

Your mother was able to see the successful start of Feryn and the collaboration with Xandres. Was she proud?

Mira: It was her dream to see us build something together, the three of us.

Lize: And she never doubted our success.

What do you want to achieve in 2016?

Mira: For us, it’s not about getting bigger. At the end of 2016, I’d like to be having a conversation that’s just as positive as this one.

Yanne: We also would like to find more time to create new collections. There’s a high demand for satchels for kids and wallets, for example. At the end of 2016, I’d like to be able to say: “You know what? We’re doing fine!”

Read more about our collaboration with Atelier Feryn.



Founder of Rosette La Vedette

An energetic woman who speaks with a sense of urgency, Wendy Rosseel is always on the move, both professionally and on a personal level. But when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008, suddenly everything ground to a halt. Not for long, however. After the initial shock, she was inspired to create her own line of colourful scarves and hats for cancer patients under the name Rosette La Vedette.

“When I was diagnosed with breast cancer and began to lose my hair as a result of chemotherapy, I knew right away that I didn’t want to wear a wig. Scarves and hats were more my style, but I couldn’t find anything in the shops that I liked. Everything was so old-fashioned and the colours were limited. In the end, my mum got out her sewing machine and made me some hats herself. I received so many compliments! That gave me the idea of opening a webshop featuring my own line of hats and scarves. It took two years before I actually got around to launching Rosette La Vedette, however. After my cancer treatment, I just wanted things to get back to normal and to resume my job in communications. But the idea for Rosette La Vedette kept growing, and after two years, I decided it was time to take action.”

What motivated you to launch Rosette La Vedette? I noticed that there was a real demand for these products. Of course, I’d rather that people didn’t need chemo hats and scarves in the first place. But I know from experience what a difference it makes when you feel good about your appearance, even when you’re ill. When I see women wearing my hats, I often notice that they seem strong and comfortable in their own skin. My collection isn’t about hiding baldness, but about helping women to overcome embarrassment and to feel great about themselves. What I’m selling is a little bit of fabric and a whole lot of confidence. I can’t cure cancer, but I can certainly help women to feel empowered! Another motivating factor for me was the drive to bring a new product to market. In my communications job, I was only responsible for a single aspect of the projects and brands I worked on. I was involved in the final steps of the process, but what I really wanted was to be there from the very beginning, developing the central idea. I always thought that would come later, after I’d had my midlife crisis [laughs]. But when I became ill, everything just fell into place.

What I’m selling is a little bit of fabric and a whole lot of confidence

Has your battle with cancer changed you? And have any of these changes been positive? Absolutely. In fact, the changes I’ve gone through have been nothing but positive. Not in the short term, obviously. When you’re ill, there are so many things you’re suddenly unable to do. And there’s no instruction manual telling you how to deal with that. But now that my illness is behind me, I notice more and more just how many good things have come out of it.

Such as? During my illness, I was physically exhausted and had to think carefully about what I wanted to accomplish each day. I only had enough energy to carry out a limited number of tasks. I learned to listen to my body and to take things slowly. I began to trust my intuition. I would ask myself: does this really make me happy? Will it make me feel energised? Before I was diagnosed with cancer, I just let life carry me along from one thing to the next: university, then my first job, then another job, all without really thinking about where I was going. Cancer forced me to make conscious decisions about my life. It helped me to realise that while you can’t control what happens to you, you can choose how to incorporate it into your personal narrative and how to go about dealing with it.

Are there any words of wisdom that helped you during your illness? When it became clear that I was going to need chemotherapy, I was devastated. I had seen the effects of chemo on people close to me. My doctor comforted me with the words: ‘Wendy, this doesn’t mean you’re going to lose control over your life; you’re just lending control to us for a bit and we’ll give it back to you when this is over.’ That helped me immensely. I’m a control freak, but those words helped me learn to let go and to trust others when I know I’m in good hands. It’s a lesson that’s still relevant to me today. My intuition guides all my business decisions. When you assemble a team of experts and learn to trust their judgement, the results are greater than anything you could do on your own. Delegating doesn’t mean losing control. I’ve gathered together a fantastic team for my business. All I have to do is pick up the phone, and problems get solved, plans get made for upcoming seasons...

What do you enjoy most about your job? The creative aspect. Twice a year, I get to choose new colours and fabrics. I can immediately picture how the fabric will look when worn by my customers. I’m particularly proud of the new autumn collection: it’s my best one yet! The colours and prints are spot on.

What sets your products apart from other chemo scarves and hats? I avoid emphasising the medical aspect of our products or taking a ‘you-poor-dear’ tone. And of course, I ensure that my hats and scarves are of excellent quality: they’re made of soft fabrics with no scratchy seams and they help create volume. But my real trademark is my use of daring, colourful prints. I’m willing to take things a step further than other designers. I come at our designs from a different perspective because I can draw on my own personal experiences throughout the design process.

Xandres chose you as an inspiring woman. Who inspires you? The people I enjoy being around and who inspire me the most are people who are aware of their own abilities and limitations, and who accept themselves for who they are. They give off so much energy because they do things that they enjoy and are good at. Being around people like that gives me energy, too. They have a kind of inner calm, as well, because they don’t feel pressured to be something that they aren’t. I’m really drawn to that mix of energy and calm.

Xandres is a proud partner of Pink Ribbon, an organisation that shines a spotlight on breast cancer research and that transformed October into Breast Cancer Awareness month. What does Pink Ribbon mean to you? I believe in the importance of raising awareness. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in our country. And when you look at the statistics worldwide, Belgium has the highest rate of breast cancer of any country. It’s a form of cancer that’s relatively easy to identify if you know what to look for. That’s why it’s so important to keep talking about breast cancer. The campaigns help make women aware of their own risk of developing the disease and teach them how to identify the symptoms, which increases their chances of survival. Open dialogue helps to break the taboo surrounding cancer, as well. People are often unsure how to react when the disease affects someone they know.



Julie & Véronique

When lawyer Julie Van Waes and aerospace engineer Véronique Duponselle took over the multi-brand store Jo.mode in Lochristi, it meant a big career switch for both of them. But over a year later, the women are certainly not regretting their decision. They tackled the new challenge full of passion and ambition, quickly learning the ropes of the fashion trade. Julie and Véronique have since opened a second multi-brand boutique in Izegem. “We both think you should try to be happy every day, both in your job and in your personal life. It means making choices and then going for them 100%”.

Why did you make this career switch?

Julie: “We had both reached a point in our lives when we felt like becoming entrepreneurs and entering the world of business. It was actually a coincidence that we ended up in the fashion sector. It didn't necessarily need to be in fashion, although of course we were pleased, as fashion is a product that appeals to women”.

Véronique: “As a strategy consultant, I came into contact with a lot of companies. Getting involved at every level and trying out the various aspects within a company made me want to follow the entire process from A to Z for once, instead of always working on temporary projects. My previous job also meant an extremely hectic and busy life: I was always in hotels. I worked as a consultant for four years and only spent around 6 months in Belgium during that time. As soon as children come along, that kind of thing gets very difficult. You either end up constantly looking for childcare solutions or you choose a different life. I opted for a new challenge which could be combined with my family. I also think it's a really cool challenge. I had been aware of Jo.mode for some time and decided to jump on board, which is when I met Julie”.

What did you find the biggest challenge in your new job?

Julie: “The biggest challenge is the fact that we now work for and with people. Although the customer takes centre stage, it isn't just about the customer. We also feel that the staff—our colleagues—are very important. It's not always easy to keep things in balance. Another challenge is that the figures need to add up. It might seem a really great job and it certainly is, but it also involves some serious responsibility: the wages need to be paid and the collections need to be funded in advance. For the two of us, the financial investment should not be underestimated. The challenge is therefore to keep everything running smoothly from a commercial point of view”.

If you work hard, it's better to do it with passion

Véronique, do you have a better work/life balance now?

Véronique: “Yes, I like this combination better: I sleep in my own bed every evening. It makes a big difference. In the evening, I always try to put the kids to bed myself. I can take them to school in the morning too. The weekends aren't so good though. We work every other weekend. There were a lot of pros and cons to weigh up, but I need a challenging job. I could also work 9 to 5 and spend more time with the kids, but that wouldn't make me happy”.

Julie: “This job has made us better mothers. We are constantly trying to find the right balance. It's not always easy, but it helps that there are two of us. We might not have dared to take the leap alone. We both have children so we're both in the same boat. As a result, we try to find a balance which makes it feasible for both of us. Thankfully, our husbands understand our decision”.

In concrete terms, how do you manage to combine a challenging job with your family?

Véronique: “I think that clear communication is very important. At home, I always discuss the schedule with my husband at the beginning of the week to make it clear who will be taking the kids to school and picking them up again. If everything is agreed properly in advance, everyone knows what is expected of them in that particular week. Clear communication and good planning help you to avoid stress”.

Xandres selected you as inspiring women. Who do you consider role models?

Véronique: “I don't actually spend much time thinking about that: we all have our own lives and do things in our own way. In the end, I think you have to make your own choices”.

Julie: “I mainly look at people in my own environment. I find it inspiring how my mum coped with three children and that she will soon be celebrating her 40th wedding anniversary. It's very impressive”.

Véronique: “People who can keep things in perspective and enjoy life, who strive for happiness: these are the kinds of people I find inspiring”.

Do you have a particular division of roles in the business?

Julie: “We do a lot of things together, such as preparing the purchases, making the purchases and the follow-up. We do have a few specific responsibilities: Véronique focuses more on the figures, graphs and analyses. I focus more on things which relate to the staff and of course all the legal matters. We do events and marketing together, dividing the tasks on a project basis”.

Did any aspects of the fashion sector come as a surprise?

Julie: “The fact that the profit margins are so small. Everyone thinks there's a huge margin in clothing, as stores offer crazy discounts during the sales. But that isn't the case unfortunately. What's more, from the retailer's point of view, the sales are far too early. For us, sales in February would be perfect. And summer sales in August. The early sales really mess up the market. Clothing loses its value even though the season is far from over”.

How do you try to make Jo.mode stand out?

Julie: “Service is very important when it comes to making a difference. It's the aspect which we want to (and must) focus on. We don't just want to sell, we also want to make people happy and give them a nice experience. For example, it makes us happy to see people having a cup of coffee in the coffee corner. People are always so busy and we deliberately wanted to create a relaxing, pampering experience, even if it's just for a short time. That's also why we consider style advice so important. If you want to, you can even stay in the fitting room and our stylists will find an outfit for you. But if you would rather be left alone to choose things and try them on, of course that's possible too”.

Do you live by any quotes or mottos?

Julie: “Seize the day. Try to do everything as well as possible. And I really do mean everything: if you're going to do something, give it everything you've got. When you're with the kids, give them your full attention. Life is too short to do things by halves”.

Véronique: “You only live once, is my motto. Enjoy the day, tomorrow will come soon enough. And try to make it fun, both at work and at home. Try to be happy in everything you do. If you're not happy, make different choices. If you work hard, for example, it's better to do it with passion and conviction”.


Founding member & administrator of Pink Ribbon

Our inspiring woman of the month is the indefatigable, 69-year old Rosette Van Rossem. A founding member & administrator of Pink Ribbon, the now-retired director of Sanoma (which publishes in particular Feeling, Flair and Libelle), is the driving force behind the organisation, which fights against breast cancer, while is being a model of tenacity and commitment. Xandres supports Pink Ribbon’s objectives, namely combating breast cancer in all its dimensions, spreading a message of courage and hope, encouraging prevention and screening, and financing projects dedicated to improving the quality of life of patients and ex-patients.

Mrs. Van Rossem, 5 years ago you moved from a high-level commercial position to a philanthropic one. Why? It wasn’t a career-based decision: I have completed my career. I worked for Sanoma until the age of 65; basically until I retired. As a publisher of many women's magazines, we felt we needed to give back to Belgian women: a project that I proposed to carry out. It happens that this related more and more often to the issue of breast cancer, on the one hand because the numbers are staggering, and on the other because communication is one of the most effective weapons in the fight against this scourge. Informing, breaking taboos, telling things as they are: but always in a positive way, because the goal is to give hope. So we began by publishing a special magazine, which is still very useful, even in these times of intense digitalisation, because we know how difficult it is for women and the people close to them to talk about this disease. A magazine lying on the living room table can get the conversation started.

At the time that you embraced this cause, had you already experienced breast cancer?No, not me personally, nor my close friends or family. But since I have become involved in the topic, I have been in contact with many patients, and some of my friends have been affected by the disease. At the time, the issue interested me professionally, and a little voice said to me “You were lucky to have a great career. Not everyone has that chance.” I had intended to get involved in a project with and serving other women. And I wanted to use everything I had learned as well as my network of contacts. When the moment of retirement arrived, the question arose of who would take over my duties at Pink Ribbon. I indicated that I wanted to continue my activities, and I became a director - as a volunteer, which is important to me. That said, my succession is already safeguarded, because although I feel good today, the organisation is too important to depend only on my health.

What are the key issues regarding breast cancer, and how does Pink Ribbon determine its priorities?Our main objective is to focus on prevention and screening, and to provide adequate information. In terms of prevention, people often are unaware that a healthy lifestyle could prevent one cancer in three, for example, moving around for half an hour every day, watching your weight and diet, avoiding tobacco and drugs, and limiting alcohol consumption. We have to be very careful when we communicate this message because we don’t want to make anyone feel at fault. We also know that if the cancer is diagnosed at the early stages, the chances of recovery approach 100% and treatment is much less burdensome. To increase the chances of diagnosing the disease as early as possible, women aged 50 to 69 are offered a mammogram free of charge by the public authorities. But many women don’t do it. Why?

And what do they answer? Many women think the exam is painful. Even if this were the case, what are 20 seconds of discomfort compared to an infinitely more painful disease? Some bring up the risk of radiation from the mammography, which could supposedly cause cancer itself. But the equipment used today produces no more rays than what you would be exposed to travelling on an airplane from Brussels to Nice.

Don’t you think it is, simply, pure fear? Absolutely. Some prefer not to know because what if the results are positive?

Angelina Jolie recently spoke about undergoing a preventative double mastectomy. Did this help your cause?Yes and no. Yes, the unexpected publicity made a difference because it broke taboos and drew attention to the disease. But it also had some very negative consequences: many women went to the hospital to demand genetic testing. But the problem is, how can you make such an important decision if you don’t have good support around

you? If the tests are negative, fine. But what if they are positive? And if you have daughters? Can you imagine the anguish? And furthermore, is the decision Angelina Jolie made the only one possible if the test is positive: mastectomy and reconstructive surgery? Of course not, because you should know that the reconstructive surgery is much more painful and difficult than the amputation itself, and not everyone has the resources that Angelina Jolie has, to make sure they get the very best services. It is certainly possible to avoid such a devastating intervention. Even if the genetic tests are positive, that doesn’t mean you will definitely develop cancer. Regular check-ups, every three to six months, is enough. One of the projects we support addresses this problem and defines the decision-making path for the impacted women, which can be set up in hospitals.

What is the new project for 2015? We find -and it’s a very positive development – that there are more and more breast cancer survivors and they can live much longer. But even once it is cured, the breast cancer remains an integral part of their lives. The anxiety does not disappear, the survivors must live with their scars, extreme fatigue, memory problems... Not to mention "swollen arm syndrome": when the lymph nodes in the armpit impacted by the surgery no longer function normally, and drainage is reduced. The campaign launched earlier this year aims to raise awareness of the consequences of surgical treatments. One of the projects I am handling this year, and which I have thought about for a while, has to do with Venice. I knew there was a group of Venetian women called the “Pink Lionesses”: cancer survivors who get together twice a week to go rowing. Firstly because the rowing encourages natural lymphatic drainage, and secondly because it offers the participants a kind of cocoon where they can be with other women travelling the same path and with whom they can share their experiences. This initiative has a double objective: protecting the patients and offering them a certain visibility, because the boat they - all dressed in pink - are rowing, bears a large inscription reading: Pink Lioness Venezia. These women are showing themselves proudly, proclaiming loudly and clearly: “Fine, we are or were ill, but life is still beautiful and we are still able to do many things!” I got in contact with them at the beginning of the year, and we immediately clicked so well that we decided to create a sort of Pink Ribbon Belgium/Pink Lioness Venezia community. I will go for five days to Venice with 10 Belgian patients who will row each day with the Venetians to discover the benefits. When they return, I hope that the media coverage will make it possible to convince the various clubs in Belgium to do everything to encourage breast cancer patients to row, starting by organising a Discovery Day aimed especially at these patients.

Are the pink ribbons still available?Of course! After being handed out for free for several years, they are now for sale for the first time. I asked Edouard Vermeulen of Natan to design a special ribbon that will be sold for 3 euros.

There is also the "Xandres for Pink Ribbon" scarf; 15 euros will be donated to Pink Ribbon for each scarf sold. Yes, and the scarf is superb! I personally adore the colours. For every new fashion season, I look for new colour combinations. I used to be a fan of Kenzo, but I have to say that I no longer follow the designers as assiduously.

You will celebrate your 70th birthday soon. How did you manage to have such an impressive career at a time when it wasn’t so easy for a woman? Did your ambition grow over time, or did your parents give you the ‘bug’?I was the only daughter of a working mother, which probably played a part. She was my role model and I always saw her working. It took me a while to understand that the outside world didn’t see girls and boys in the same way. I really didn’t think about it for many years, I just did what I wanted. “Go for it.” I married a man whose mother and grandmother had also always been active. So we never had any conversations about “who does what or will it suit you if…” On the contrary, my husband put his career on hold for several years so I could balance my professional and private lives. He had – and still has – his own company and could organise his own schedule. So I was never reined in, much less made to feel guilty. For me, it was all very normal. I don’t think about stopping now, because I just invested in a new enterprise which is taking up a lot of my time. I sometimes think it is precisely because I have nothing left to prove that I can accomplish so much.


Pioneer in lessons of self-love and body positivity

For the fifth time now, Marte Boneschansker has been the face of the Xandres xline campaign. As the new season breaks, the timing could not be more perfect to hear what lessons on self-love and body positivity this signature member of the Xandres family has picked up throughout her successful career. Ever since she first stepped on set, she has inspired us with her important and infectious message of self-acceptance paired with a real take on the industry that she readily shares with friends and followers on social media, one #confidenceisamuscle hashtag at a time.

How did you get into modelling? I was nine when I first got scouted on the street, but my mother didn’t allow me to model until I was sixteen. I was furious! Especially as a young teenager I thought she was blocking my career. (laughs) Now I'm grateful, because it gave me the opportunity to grow into my natural size and shape. At sixteen, I signed with a high-end agency in Amsterdam. I was a size thirty-eight and they wanted me to drop two sizes. I really tried, but it just wasn't for me. Then I developed hips and breasts and I was a size forty when I left the agency. I was about to give up on modelling forever, so when Euromodel scouted me two years later, a full size forty-two - which I still am today -, I was very surprised.

What was modelling like the second time around? In the beginning it was weird. I would apologise for my size to clients, I was insecure about my looks and I would hide my curves on shoots. I even had dreams about my new agency calling me to say they’d made a mistake and I was too big for the job. But with every shoot I would feel more empowered. I now think it's great that I can be myself in my natural size and work all over the world.

This is the fifth time that you’ve been the face of the Xandres xline campaign. How does that make you feel? It’s such a great honour! I love that Xandres xline celebrates women with class and personality. The story the brand tells is very captivating. It makes you feel sensual, strong and smart. I remember being very nervous for our first shoot; I had all kinds of butterflies. But the whole team was incredibly nice to me and we had an immediate connection. On shoots with Xandres xline, everything just comes together. You can feel the mix of focus and excitement. That's when you know you're creating a thing of beauty together.

Confidence is a muscle, train it every day.

Do you have any particular favourite moments on set with us? So many! The locations are always fabulous: I loved shooting in this incredible house on the Dutch coast, a masterpiece of modern architecture. Or that shoot in one of the Rotterdam skyscrapers with floor-to-ceiling windows. But perhaps the most moving shoot was right after the Brussels terror attacks. We were all so shocked by the event and it was such a strange day. It knocked us off of our feet but the pictures came out truly beautiful. It was as if the grief gave us a hidden energy, like some sort of ritual. We wanted to continue to tell stories, to love, to live. I think of that day as a day spent with family.

How would you like to see the modelling industry change? I feel like a lot is happening right now with brands using different girls, body types, ages and races for their shoots. They finally understand women need to see a reflection of society, but it's still a slow process, especially in beauty campaigns. But I'm positive it will happen soon. Change has come. Slowly but steadily, diversity is here to stay.

How do you feel about the term ‘plus-size model’ or ‘plus-size fashion’ or the currently more popular term ‘curvy models’? I get that the term is confusing but it's what the industry uses in order for clients to find the right size for the job. In an ideal world, we wouldn't use the term anymore, but it has everything to do with sample sizes. I do like the word ‘curvy’ much better. It's a softer and wider term and it’s more about body type than about size.

What was the key to your own self-acceptance? I think we’re all so brainwashed, both men and women, into thinking that women need to be this skinny hourglass shape. A photography assistant once showed me unretouched pictures of Lara Stone in System Magazine right after her first baby was born. She looked incredible, but the assistant said that she looked gross and wasn’t in shape. Are you kidding me? She just had a baby! She looked absolutely stunning. Because Lara is such an empowered woman, you can tell she doesn't care what people think. Self-acceptance is a tough journey, especially for women. Even my skinniest friend says she has a bit of a belly and she doesn't like it. I then show her mine and tell her I love it. That's the trick. Love your body. Love every part of it. I tell myself every morning how lovely my bum or my hips or my belly are. I tell myself that my height is a strong point, that I am smart and loveable.

What advice would you give to young girls who look different than what the magazines sometimes portray as being 'the norm'? I feel like the responsibility lies with the magazines. It's really hard for a young girl to think: “Wait, this is not reality: this is a staged picture and a model.” Magazines should portray all different types of bodies, ages, genders and races. Pieces titled “Are you summer body ready?” are criminal to me. They are the reason many women feel uncomfortable in their bodies. Sometimes I feel magazines don't fully understand the power they have. Do you want to make girls and women feel insecure and unhappy or do you want to empower them and show them their strength and possibilities? To young girls I would say: use magazines for inspiration, for the fashion, for the stories, but don't focus on the ideal body or lifestyle. Love yourself for who you are and for what's inside. Give the parts you don't like a little extra love. Show them off. And find out what you like, what empowers you, what makes you stronger and independent. Every body is ‘beach body ready’. Just go to the beach and get in the water!

If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 14 year-old self? I would tell myself never to diet, to stand tall and be proud of myself. To do what I love. To work hard and play hard. I still tell myself that every day.

You attended theatre school and you’re an actress, what do you like most about being on stage? Acting is my true love and passion. I love being on stage: the rush, the energy and the interaction with the audience. It's live and every night is different, that makes it interesting each time. It's really like a dance between performer and audience, without the one the other doesn't exist.

How has acting made you a better model? I always take my skills with me on a modelling job. The photographer is my audience, and I tell him or her a story with my eyes, movements and face. I always try to create a character on set.

What was the best piece of advice someone in the modelling or acting industry ever gave you? It may sound obvious but: be yourself. Sometimes you feel you should change in order to be happier. “I should be more like this and they will like me better, or if I'm more like her I will get a boyfriend.” But the truth is, there is only one you. Someone once asked me: “What did you enjoy as a kid?” and I remembered theatre, dressing up, reading, drawing, writing. I started doing all of those things again and stopped comparing myself to others. If you are at ease, if you do what you love, if you love who you are, you are at your most beautiful. And that's a kind of beauty that spreads out to others; it's a light that you bring with you to jobs, to relationships, to life. It brings you happiness.

What is your favourite quote or mantra? “Confidence is a muscle, train it every day.”


Head of Commercial Training at Brussels Airlines

For Erica Raymaekers, ‘Head of Commercial Training’ and responsible for about 1,300 cabin crew members at Brussels Airlines, “flexibility”, “resilience” and “positive thinking” are not just words to copy-paste on a random Instagram quote. They are skills she has worked at to perfect and use every single day when she’s trying to inspire her colleagues and please her passengers. We talked to this ‘Inspiring Woman’ who instead of waiting around for the perfect job to come falling out of the sky, decided to follow her passion. Her unwavering empathy and admirable work ethic in a constantly challenging sector are a true inspiration. And to top it off, Erica was part of the consultancy team advising Xandres on designing the beautiful Xandres for Brussels Airlines apparel. She’s still a big fan: “In all my 26 years of working, the red Xandres dress is the only uniform I’ve been complimented on so often.”

You’ve been working in this sector for 25 years and you’ve built a great career for yourself. Do you remember the moment you knew you wanted to work in aviation? It certainly wasn’t something I dreamt of as a child. I really didn’t know what kind of career I was cut out for. After High School, I enrolled in a private school to work on my languages and it was there that I was offered an internship at the airport. I met some alumni that had started working as an air hostess for DAT, a great and small regional airline company at the Antwerp Airport that would later provide the foundations Brussels Airlines was built on. That sparked my interest. I thought to myself: this isn’t something I’ll be doing for the rest of my life, but I’m young, I’ll get to see the world, practice my languages and come into contact with all kinds of cultures. Fast forward 26 years later and I’m still here. The spark grew into a passion.

You’ve never been afraid to fly? Absolutely not. My parents flew me out to the Spanish coast when I was only 2,5 years old. I got a real kick out of taking off and landing when I was a child. Sometimes I still do: feeling the wheels leave the ground and lifting off!

Why do you think you felt such a connection with aviation? I’ve always been very social. My friends used to call me the ‘people magnet’ of the bunch. When we were out and about and there were awkward silences or conversation wasn’t flowing, I was always the one nudging things along to make it work. It takes a little pluck to take on this job. It’s more than just standing around being pretty.

This job asks for a little pluck. It's more than just standing around being pretty.

How did you experience the Sabena bankruptcy? DAT, the company you worked for, didn’t go belly up, but there was a big transition. First of all, let me be clear: the disappearance of Sabena really affected me. We flew for Sabena with DAT, so I knew a lot of people there. On the other hand, it was an experience that gave me new energy. I realised that whatever happened, new doors would open and those doors were getting bigger and bigger. We had the good fortune to be able to continue after the Sabena bankruptcy and become Brussels Airlines, as it is known today. Sabena also flew to more destinations than DAT… more exotic ones, too. Before the transition, I had already fantasized about what it would be like to work on one of those big planes. Now the opportunity just fell into my lap. I also wanted to contribute to building a new Belgian airline. Everyone was driven by a “Let’s do this!” mentality. I was able to grow with the company and was given a leadership position fairly quickly.

Have you always been this flexible? In this sector, you have to be flexible from day one. If you can’t do that, you’ll struggle because this isn’t a ‘9 to 5’ job. Sometimes you have to fly at night or work on Christmas. You only know one month ahead of time when you’ll be flying, so you have to plan differently: one year you’ll be working on your birthday and the next one you’re not. This can be tricky to explain to your family. I also teach and some of the courses are taught on a holiday. It just so happens that this year we had a session on Easter Monday and when I received several emails from people asking me if had mixed up the dates, seeing as ‘This date is Easter Monday.’ My reply was: “Welcome to aviation!” (laughs) There are more reasons why you always need to be able to adapt quickly as a cabin crew member: each flight has so many different types of passengers with different destinations and mind-sets: a backpacker, a student that didn’t pass his entry exam, a businessman or businesswoman, the President of an African country, Brad Pitt, the Red Devils, Tomorrowland dancers… The gears inside our heads need to shift constantly, depending on who’s in front of us. It’s really fascinating.

We have to talk about the attacks of March, 22nd 2016. How did you handle that personally? We have all lived through it together and we are all fighters. What struck me most was when Mr. Gustin, the CEO of Brussels Airlines, came out of the crisis meeting and took several minutes to address everyone in the crew room.

A silence and serenity descended on the room. And even though all flights were cancelled that day, no one went home. Everyone asked the same question: “How can I help?” That’s something that defines us, too.

Could you tell us about “Wings for Children”? It’s a project that I’ve been involved in for several years now. We offer free short flights from Antwerp to physically or mentally challenged children. The flight itself only takes about twenty minutes, but boarding and exiting the plane often takes an hour. During the flight - which is many of the children’s very first one and a dream come true for them - the children are just bursting with joy. It’s wonderful to see and very emotional for the mentors and the cabin crew.

You’re also on the Brussels Airlines Cabin Crew management team and you’re a teacher, too. I’ve always been the first to raise my hand when someone was needed for mentoring during the training programs. It’s not just my knowledge I want to pass on, but my passion and drive too. Throughout the years, this has developed into me giving in-flight training, combined with ground training in our education department. At this time, I’ve taken on the coordination of the entire commercial training package. It’s seven instructors and me. We’ve taken the courses under our wings, educating people about the work, the methods and –most importantly for me- customer care: dealing with conflict, your attitude, style, charisma… How do you feel when you’re wearing the uniform?

The Brussels Airlines uniform designed by Xandres! I’ve worn many different outfits throughout my career and I can honestly say that this is the first uniform that really fits everything we are trying to put out there. We represent a piece of Belgium, or the “Belgitude”, as we call it. The cabin crew has to embody that feeling in their behaviour, openness, accessibility and discretion. The red Xandres dress is just perfect. It’s a really stylish silhouette, but it’s also pleasant and comfortable to wear. In my entire career, spanning 26 years by now, it’s the only clothing item that people have ever commented on. Before the design for the uniform was drawn up, I was part of a consultancy team representing different generations. The goal was to create something in which all of us could look their best and I think we really succeeded at that.

What are your own favourite travel destinations? I love going to Kigali. Rwanda is a beautiful country and I can find peace there. When I look outside my window, the effect is similar to a yoga session: it quiets me down and energises me at the same time. I also like shopping in New York and Milan and I adore Spain: Bilbao, Madrid, Malaga ...

How do you combine all that with having a family? My husband is flexible and my children are used to it. I think their independence has its benefits. I do think it’s important to have the right balance between your professional and your private life. In this industry, you need to be at ease when you close the door behind you. I became a mother a bit later in life, so I had already settled in, professionally. But I also knew: when the kids are here, I need to find a new balance because giving up my job just wasn’t an option. I’ve had a lot of help from my family. My children get some extras out of it, too: I come home with stories or presents, like a dress from New York for my daughter.

Do you have any tips for travelling comfortably? Try to enjoy it from the very first moment. Don’t wait until you arrive at the hotel or sit down at the pool. You can already get into a holiday mood on the plane. A lot of people still think of travelling as a necessary evil and Brussels Airlines would like to change that. We will pamper you right here, right now. I never say I’m going to work, I say “I’m going to fly.”

What would you like to do in the next few years? Keep exploring different continents. More towards the East. In the future, I hope we’ll be able to add more of our own flights to Asia to our ever-expanding offer. Our courses take a close look at several cultures. I’d love to add eastern cultures to that mix.

Given your busy and unpredictable agenda, I can’t help wondering how you like to unwind. I run and bike three times a week with my husband. It’s a good way to empty my thoughts and it’s a form of relationship therapy: it allows us to make all the necessary household decisions. A perfect combination, don’t you think?


Musician & Artistic Programmer for the Gent Festival Van Vlaanderen

“I was about 15 years old when I realised music would be my profession,” Veerle Simoens explains to us on the eve of the latest edition of the Gent Festival Van Vlaanderen. “And in the end, everything followed rather naturally.” It all began for her at 9 years old, when she discovered the cello and revealed her genuine talent for the instrument. A talent that would lead her to form the popular Simoens Trio with her equally gifted sisters - Katrijn on piano and An on violin –, for which she also handles promotion and management. This path has guided her to her role today as Artistic Programmer for the Gent Festival Van Vlaanderen, which takes place over two weeks every year in the capital of East Flanders. Make no mistake, this evolution has not been the result of a series of fortunate events - which is precisely why the musician/steward has been chosen as this month’s "Inspiring Woman". You have to dare to seize opportunities. And when you succeed, you must use those opportunities to help the next generation get off to a running start. “That’s why I set up Generation Project, which links young musicians to proven assets,” she tells us. To put it in another way: each one, teach one. Could we imagine a more inspiring initiative?

Did the idea to form the Simoens Trio come from requests to you and your sisters to play together at family events?Not at all; we never played together. We only began when my older sister had to play some chamber music at the last minute for her Conservatory exam, and we had to help her out. However, from that moment we quickly realised that, musically, we worked very well together. Afterwards, everything moved quite fast, but I was already 20 years old at the time! I quickly turned towards taking care of management and reservations, while my older sister handled financial aspects and my younger sister focussed on finding new pieces to add to our repertoire.

Even today, you constantly rehearse. This ongoing learning seems to be very important for you.Absolutely. A musician never stops studying. Moreover, when you play in a small group, from time to time you need someone to broaden your horizons and allow you to improve. I find that as we move forward we take with us the different influences we receive from our teachers, and these influences are important. But don’t think that this means I blindly follow anybody at all ... Rather I trust my instincts and I choose what suits me.

You and your sisters have successfully released two CDs and you have toured all over Europe. What highlights have stayed with you?Our performance at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. The place is legendary, a bit like the Mecca of classical music. When you enter a space in which all the greats have played, and you change in a dressing room that has been used by your heroes before you, it really is something special.

How did you end up at the Gent Festival Van Vlaanderen? After my studies, I was mostly doing a number of tours with my sisters. Then one day someone asked me to take care of the general management of Casco Phil, the old Philharmonic of Belgium. This seemed like a logical next step for me, because what they were asking me to do was what I was already doing for our trio, but of course on a much larger scale. I found myself in a biotope of pure creativity, but one within which I had to dare to add commercial and innovative aspects, especially because Casco Phil is an unsubsidised orchestra.

It seems that an association between “art and business” doesn’t shock you. And you are certainly correct.At the time, I raised a lot of eyebrows, I assure you. In the art and culture world, the word “business” still often has a very bad connotation. Personally, I never looked at things in that way. To me, music is a product like any other, and we have to engage the customer to consume it. Attending a concert is an experience. And every experience has the potential power to teach and change people. But to answer your

previous question, I made the transition from Casco Phil to become artistic programmer for the Gent Festival Van Vlaanderen. It was a big honour to be considered for the job, because, as everyone knows, this festival is the mother of all festivals. This year we are at its 58th edition and yet it is still going strong, with a youthful spirit! And that is thanks to our fantastic team. We do our best to be innovators, especially by organising events for a large target audience. So this year, we organised Parklife, where people could not only listen to the music, but also satisfy their passions as foodies at the best food trucks, located all around the event. Or they could participate in Parkbike, all while enjoying the beautiful series of concerts.

"OdeGand" is a concept within the festival in which Xandres is also participating. Can you tell me more about it?For many residents of Ghent, OdeGand marks the start of the cultural year. The city turns into a giant podium, and with just one ticket you can put together your own, personalised programme. What we propose goes far beyond classical music alone: there is a children’s village, artists from all corners of the earth, and to wind up we are presenting West Side Story in the original version of Leonard Bernstein. We are very proud of this unique event because, in principle, this version cannot be put on within the framework of a European production. The fact that I was able to obtain the rights was a true miracle. But to get back to the collaboration with Xandres: during OdeGand, we will send artists to the store. For example, this could be a soprano who gives her best there for five minutes. All our hostesses will also be dressed by Xandres, which I personally find fantastic. Regarding the look, these outfits absolutely add a plus to our festival. I think it is important to link ourselves to a brand and to ensure that the entire festival respects a certain style.

How would you describe your own style? When I perform I dress more glamorously than for a budget meeting, of course !Over the years, I have increased my clothing budget and I try to always be well dressed. I wear a lot of suits because I feel good in them. For our concerts, I used to go several times a year to Germany, where I had my preferred shops. I don’t know why, but you find more cocktail dresses in Germany than in Belgium. I always have to be careful not to wear sleeveless dresses, because that makes me appear to be naked behind my cello (laughs). And nothing too sparkly because, with the reflection of the spotlights, people can no longer see anything.

You really think about every detail and it seems almost nothing escapes you ... and yet you are very calm. Are you one of those people that nothing disturbs?It is certainly possible for me to do one thing at a time and one after another. But I can also occasionally show myself to be insatiable, going so far that I have to restrain myself. I can be stressed before a performance or when facing a deadline, but when all goes well in the end, it is a victory that restores my energy for the next challenge.

Our Inspiring Women have often turned their passion into their profession. Do you have other hobbies outside of music?That’s a good question (thinks). Sometimes I would say yes, but when I play the cello and I am fully involved in studying a piece, it both is a source of stress, because I always want to go further and to perfect myself, and at the same time I feel so much in my element that is it also calming. I also like to eat with my friends.

And finally, even if it isn’t a very fair question, I have to ask you: which concert would you above all not want to miss at the 58th edition of the Gent Festival Van Vlaanderen?Thomas Hampson is an American baritone who is very active in the educational field. He enjoys training young people and transmitting his knowledge. I like it when people don’t keep their talent for themselves, and instead use it to motivate others. We can’t propose only music for our small group of enthusiasts; we also have to attract those whose route to the concert hall is more difficult. So, yes, I am very happy that Thomas Hampson is taking part in the festival.



While living as an expat in Norway, Ellen De Veirman had been hatching an ambitious project for several years: her own perfume collection with a street-edge. The low survival rate of Belgian perfume labels didn’t put her off. On the contrary, it pushed her even more to keep banging on all those notoriously tight-shut doors of the industry until BillyXClub became a reality. Just one year after the simultaneous launch of six (!) debut scents, one of which was instantly nominated for a prestigious perfume award, she’s ready to present a new project with Xandres. “MsBillyX for Xandres” is another unique "Inspiring Women" collaboration between Xandres and an extraordinary entrepreneur. Ellen De Veirman lives by the words ‘Dream big’. She spends her days building and dreaming, never shying away from the hard work and self-analysis she needs to incorporate every aspect of her personality into her work. That’s why she’s an Inspiring Woman and why Xandres is psyched to be working with her.

Before we look back at how you got into the perfume business, I’d like to know how you feel about working with Xandres. When I was contacted to start an ‘Inspiring Women’ collaboration, I didn’t hesitate. I started my perfume collection just a year ago, so to be thought of as ‘inspiring’ is kind of special.

Like you said, BillyXClub is pretty new. Could you tell me something about how you got to where you are now? I had what you might call a ‘classic High School’ education. I was really creative and wanted to go to a creative school, like Sint-Lucas in Ghent. But for several reasons, I didn’t. I started doing administrative work and built a career for myself. Meanwhile, I met the man that I would later marry and followed his dream to work abroad as an engineer. I was like: “Why not, a little adventure never hurt anyone.” We ended up in Norway, in the offshore industry, where I’ve been working for almost eleven years now.

Each BillyXClub perfume has its own personality, a unique vibe

A few years ago, your creative side started coming alive again. How did you combine the launch of BillyXClub with a fulltime job? In Norway, they take ‘a 9 to 5 job’ quite literally. Even most managers and CEO’s start the day at 8AM and go home at 4PM. The hours are flexible, too. I live just ten minutes away from my work, so I had plenty of leisure time and the ideas just started to grow. It soon became pretty clear that I had to get back to perfumes.

What do you mean ‘back’ to perfumes? I’ve always loved perfume. I guess it’s because of my mom. She loved it, too. Our bathroom was always filled with vials and bottles. I was younger than most kids when I got my first perfume. It was Anaïs Anaïs. I wasn’t immediately enchanted by the smell, but I was happy to call it mine and I’ve always worn perfume since then.

Isn’t the perfume world very much closed to outsiders? How did you approach the development of BillyXClub? The first thing I came up with was a clear concept. I wanted to stay far away from commercial brands and do my own thing. I’ve really put my personality into BillyXClub. Billy is my husband’s pet name for me. My first investment was a trademark registration for my brand in Europe, Norway and Belgium. I thought: “Let’s start from there.”

Then I began contacting people in the industry, sending them a well-thought-out presentation. For example, I visited perfume companies and experts in Paris and Grasse to explain my concept. Not everyone got back to me right away, but I’m persistent. When someone didn’t answer my mail, I called them up directly. (Laughs) I also talked to distributors and perfume storeowners. Some were very open to it, others thought it was a huge project and asked me if I knew what I was getting myself into.

You didn’t know what you were getting yourself into, so you decided to launch not one, but six perfumes simultaneously. “This project is too big for someone who’s just getting started!” That’s what they told me. But my concept wouldn’t make sense without all six perfumes. Each BillyXClub perfume has its own personality, a unique vibe my clients can identify with.

Let’s talk about “MsBillyX for Xandres”, the unique and wonderful perfume you’ve developed with Xandres. Did it feel like a natural collaboration to you? I knew right away I wanted to grab this opportunity but I was open about the different target groups of BillyXClub and Xandres. BillyXClub is more young-minded, urban and rather colourful. But then we talked about Billy being my nickname and just one aspect of my personality. That’s how the idea came about of developing a perfume for Xandres as Ellen De Veirman, the ‘Inspiring Woman’ behind BillyXClub.

How did you approach the creation of the “MsBillyX for Xandres” perfume? I asked to see the fall/winter ’16 look-book and imagery months ago. It’s important to me that my scent is connected to it. The colours, the graphic aspects and especially the ‘boho chic’ theme of the Xandres collection inspired me. It’s got a little attitude, a rebellious edge. There are references to the hippies. I immediately thought of patchouli because that was my favourite smell during my rebellious years. (Laughs) I also knew it had to be a ‘warm’ scent. Something that’s pleasant during wintertime. I added notes of wood and warm hints of flowers and fruit.

Which women inspire you on a daily basis? Yolandi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord, Cara Delevingne and Lana Del Rey. … Real power women.

Did you discover a new side of yourself during this collaboration with Xandres? My feminine side doesn’t get much attention at BillyXClub. I’m not the “modern woman with a perfect hairdo” you see portrayed in the media so often, but I do have a certain attitude. I know who I am and what I want. I have that in common with the Xandres-woman. It was fun and inspiring to play around with these aspects while we were developing the perfume and I’m so proud of the results!

The exclusive and limited edition perfume “MsBillyX for Xandres” created by Inspiring Woman Ellen De Veirman is available in-store and online from 12/11/2016. Discover it here.


creator of the StoryBox

“I prefer asking questions to answering them”, warns Pascale Baelden, storyteller in the purest form, former fashion & beauty journalist, and creator of the unique StoryBox concept, at the beginning of our interview. Several years ago, after spending years filling in the pages of magazines such as Weekend Knack, Feeling and Glam*IT, she said farewell to traditional media. This month, she is our ‘Inspiring Woman’: in this series on women, it is crucial to give voice to those who dared to leave a seemingly comfortable situation (from an exterior viewpoint, anyway) - a dream job as editor-in-chief of a popular fashion magazine, no less! – to make a 180 degree change in direction. Why did she do this? “It became clear to me that to be truly happy, I had to find my essence”.

My own dreams were at their purest and most ambitious when I was 13 years old. What did a pre-adolescent Pascale dream of? Even though today I am the mother of two daughters and a son, I absolutely did not dream about a house with garden, baby, and all that encompasses. I wanted to achieve something, but I didn’t know what. I grew up in the calm of the Campine region, with both my feet planted firmly on the ground. I was a realist. The first person who believed in me was my homeroom teacher in my first year of secondary school. She saw my potential and encouraged me to study Greek and Latin. And my mother always emphasised how important it was for a woman to be financially independent. At that age, those are the things that stay with you.

Following your studies, did you immediately enter the world of fashion? Not at all. My academic journey was rather bumpy. I did a year of law but, for the first time, I discovered that I couldn’t succeed without passion. So I moved into political and social sciences, but after graduation there were no jobs available. For a while I worked as an interim consultant, I even sold cars - and I noticed right away that I liked to speak with people, ask them questions, so that in the end I knew their story. I might not have known what was under the hood of the car, but I always wanted to see what was “under the hood” of the person. Then I found myself in the world of magazine publishing through a job at Loving You, where I learned a lot over the course of a year, because I did everything from A to Z. Christina von Wackerbarth (Belgian media mogul – ed.) saw my work. She believed in me and gave me a big boost, so that I had the chance to work with the editors-in-chief of different magazines. And very quickly I realised that my interests lay with fashion and beauty.

It became clear to me that to be truly happy, I had to find my essence.

What were some highlights from that period? Having coffee with top model Christy Turlington in New York and bonding over our new motherhood, talking backstage with Giorgio Armani and pleasantly surprising him with my questions, meeting with Isabella Rossellini and having a shared feeling that we were kindred spirits … I could go on and on. But the most important highlight for me was all of the friendships I developed during my career in media.

You then married and had three children, and decided to give up your work as editor-in-chief of a magazine to become self-employed. How courageous do you have to be to do that? How crazy, you mean? (Laughs). Especially because it meant giving up that financial independence my mother had drummed into me. But I simply couldn’t keep going. I sweated long enough trying to combine motherhood and my career. Especially when the children were still small.

Did you discover very quickly what you wanted to do working independently? I began writing freelance a little, which went pretty well. But the best thing I did was to have coffee with friends and colleagues. When you talk to people, it’s like looking into a mirror, and the pieces of the puzzle begin falling into place. After a while, I realised that I was really doing it for the interviews. During one of these meetings, I proclaimed aloud “I’m going to do ‘a story in a box’”, and that’s how StoryBox, my little biography company, saw the light of day. Magnificently presented, in a pretty box. Everyone has someone in their family or circle of friends who has a rich and interesting history. When you buy a StoryBox for someone, I interview that person several times, and then I make a book of their life.

Don’t you often come across family tragedies or other painful situations? How does that affect you? I have been to marriages and funerals. By the time my StoryBox is ready, I often have the feeling that the person and those close to them have become my friends. Sometimes, something happens that gets under my skin, but tragic stories don’t get me down. I really have the feeling I am making something, because my subjects can tell their stories and in the end, I give them a beautiful book.

Are you still involved in beauty and fashion? Of course I am still interested a little in all that, but I don’t have the time to go shopping. It just isn’t a priority right now.

How would you describe your own style, and who are your favourite designers? Someone recently told me that I am the knit type. I love soft, cosy materials. As far as designers go, I really much like what Wim Bruynooghe, who just finished his studies, is doing. Otherwise, A.F. Vandevorst, Tim Van Steenbergen and Haider Ackermann are amongst my favourites. If I had an unlimited budget, I would allow myself to be tempted by Raf Simons for Dior.

What have you learned over the course of these last, turbulent years? What has changed? The children are now in joint custody. When they are with me, I focus on them. And when they are with their father, I can throw myself headlong into my work without feeling guilty. But the most important thing is that I have found my essence. I know now what I am truly good at. I have learned that sometimes you have to let yourself be guided by whatever crosses your path, and I have more confidence in the future than ever.

Are you planning to write your own story someday? Yes, I’ve already been asked by several publishers. I have only two decisions left to make: firstly, which story, because I currently have 15 books in me, and secondly, when? In a dream scenario, I will put my life on hold and finish this book in the south of Spain. Oh, well. That’s a project I have yet to realise. But as I already said, I am confident it will all work out in the end.

Xandres and StoryBox are co-publishing a limited edition StoryBox Xandres x Alice. You can find more information here.

© Lieven Dirckx



Communication Manager for Flanders Fashion Institute

Jasmijn Verlinden, Communication Manager for Flanders Fashion Institute, places a lot of importance on balance. Whether it's finding the right one between her two main professional passions - design and fashion - or creating a durable and comfortable lifestyle for herself and her family, how she consumes, grows or reduces her ecological footprint inspires others. We met with this "Inspiring Woman" who understood from the age of 13 years old the importance of making the right choices to simplify life.

The Flanders Fashion Institute (FFI) does a lot for fashion, with projects such as "ikkoopbelgisch" and Flanders Fashion Fuel. How would you describe your role? FFI is a non-profit organisation, subsidised in large part by the Flemish government through the Agentschap Ondernemen enterprise agency. So our actions must always take place within the framework of this entrepreneurship. FFI's mission is to inform, advise, coach and promote. We gather a maximum of information on regulations, taxation, customs duties, etc., which we then organise and communicate through our website and fashion guide. My colleague Jasmien also organises Fashion Labs and information days. Anyone interested in fashion or seeking information can contact us. Potential entrepreneurs who want to launch their own brands can request a meeting. On the other hand, we also advise public authorities should they want to launch a fashion project. If a journalist wants to write an article on sustainable fashion, we can provide a list of relevant stylists. We cover a very large spectrum: not only do we support the designers, but everyone who is directly or indirectly involved in fashion and who needs some advice.

Let’s talk about "ikkoopbelgisch", something very close to Xandres as we are a Belgian brand. During the “De Invasie Van Antwerpen” event several years ago, we gave out "ikkoopbelgisch" buttons. They were so successful, we decided to continue down that path. Sometime afterwards, I bought a Dutch-brand bicycle seat for my son, and saw that the packaging was prominently marked "Dutch Design". I thought to myself, “The Dutch are really good at design and we Belgians at fashion. There are so many Belgian brands, we should be proud to buy Belgian.” Belgian fashion, isn’t just about Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester. Xandres is also a Belgian fashion brand. I had a lot of other ideas as well that were difficult to achieve for all sorts of reasons, especially time and budget. During the Antwerp Fashion Festival, we asked merchants to display an "ikverkoopbelgisch" sticker in their windows. Some are still there. The next step is to convince other merchants and offer them the sticker. This way, consumers will know which stores support Belgian fashion.

There are so many Belgian brands, we should be proud to buy Belgian.

You made some important decisions at a young age. You became a vegetarian when you were 13 years old, which was very unusual 15 years ago. I was sick quite often when I was a child, and even though I liked meat and fish, I decided to give it up after a long stay in hospital. It was hard to get my family to accept my decision, because people didn’t know much about vegetarianism back then, and the supermarkets offered almost no replacement products. My parents did their best with the limited information they had. It took time for them to fully accept my decision, but when they understood that I felt better and that my health was improving, they were reassured. Vegetarianism is a personal choice that fits with my philosophy of life. However, I’m not a die-hard militant about it: I wear leather shoes, and occasionally I eat fish.

What other important choices have you made? We had signed up for Cambio, but my son was born in winter and the parking area was quite far away, so it wasn’t very practical. Now I have a company car that I use about once every other week. When I fly, I try to buy a Green Seat to compensate for the CO2 emissions of my trip. We use all Ecover cleaning products. My partner and I are considering switching to green electricity. Regarding food, I prefer raw, organic products. We are signed up with the Stadsboerderij Antwerpen urban farm, which provides us with vegetables every week forming the base of our meals. But I have to admit I sometimes slide a little. I have a sweet tooth and I occasionally fall for the temptation of a pastry or sweets.

Were you already drawn to fashion when you were young? I was drawn to aesthetics, absolutely. I studied art history, and was always fascinated by art in the broader sense. My paternal grandmother was an artist. When I was a child, I experimented in her studio. There were also a lot of books, which I absolutely devoured. As a teenager, I was particularly attracted to the applied arts, to fashion and design. My other grandmother had a subscription to Knack. On Wednesday afternoons, I would treat myself to the fashion photos and art in the Weekend supplement. At the time, Peter Pilotto was finishing his education at the Antwerp Fashion Academy, and I found his graduation collection to be superb. I never wanted to be a designer, but a composition with well-balanced form and colour could certainly inspire me.

The second edition of the Fashion Talks series of conferences on fashion, organised by the FFI, is taking place soon. I found the first biennial a real success. The talks by Tim Blanks and Walter Van Beirendonck were very interesting. Who will be speaking this year? I am very happy that my colleagues have convinced Irishman Patrick Scallon to participate. Communication Director for Dries Van Noten since 2008, he worked for a long time for Maison Martin Margiela, where he started by brewing coffee and sending faxes, before making his way up the ladder. I truly admire people who have followed the whole trajectory. Scallon makes very personal choices. So for example, he doesn’t use instant communication like Instagram. He has his own vision, which I am eager to discover. Africa is generating quite a few prominent designers, which is another interesting path. We have asked journalist Robb Young, who works in particular for the International New York Times and Business of Fashion, to invite interesting speakers for an on-stage debate. We are also organising an off-stage programme with Cabin Sessions: small discussion groups on various topics. The programme is very diverse, on the podium but also off it.

You just explained how much you admire Patrick Scallon and his career. How do you want your own career to evolve? That’s a difficult question. When I started at FFI as a project manager, I coordinated the platform of Design Vlaanderen for everything regarding fashion. I took care of both fashion and design. Coming from a design arena, I was thrilled to be able to combine my two passions. I no longer handle the platform and while I miss it, I’m certainly not complaining because I am learning so much. The FFI gives me the opportunity to do a little bit of everything and to follow each project. Communication also interests me a lot. For me, language is primordial. I call the Taaltelefoon service at least once a month, which amuses my colleagues to no end. Whenever I wonder: “Do I write this or that in one word or with a hyphen?” I just call Stef at Taaltelefoon. He knows me well. Using the right word or the most precise expression possible is extremely important to me. The combination of aesthetic and perfection in the language suits me to a ‘T’. In other words, I love what I do. For the rest, what will be, will be.



In Xandres' ever-continuing quest to bring you Inspiring Women from all trades, we present you Valentine De Cort, wondrous illustrator for the likes of Delvaux and ELLE Belgique and designer in her own right. Why is she inspiring? Because she accomplished the one thing she knew she wanted to achieve: to work as an independent. Inspiring, because by trying new -and sometimes scary- things she gets a better understanding of herself. Inspiring, because she has a great sense of humour. What is the most important thing she learned working for one of the world's most revered luxury houses and what did she do with Belgium's beloved King Baudouin's head? You'll read all about it right here...

You studied drawing and sculpture at La Cambre and scenography and interior architecture in Paris. When and why did you decide to become an illustrator? I’ve had a bumpy ride during my studies, but after graduating from La Cambre, I realized I didn't belong in the ‘contemporary art’ world. I was lucky enough to find a job in New York for a while and came back with a little bit more perspective. The one thing I knew was that I wanted to work as an independent. I started doing all sorts of things: I designed leather moustaches for shoes, jewellery and made drawings for friends and relatives. One drawing commission led to another and that’s how I got the ball rolling. 

When did you first notice that you could make a living with your drawings? I had lots of drawing commissions but not enough for a full-time job in the beginning. So I took two part-time jobs, and drew in the evenings and on the weekends. After a while, I left one of those jobs and eventually the other one too. And now I’m a full-time illustrator. Great, right? 

Self-absorbed and pretentious characters are very fun to draw.

I think it's amazing and it's also how a lot of successful artists started! There is a lot of humour and lightness in your work, even though the world can be a sad place sometimes. What makes you laugh? I have the funniest boyfriend! He makes me laugh a lot.

Can you name a couple of specific traits that all of the characters you draw have? They usually look like tall ruffled children rather than adults. Self-absorbed and pretentious characters are very fun to draw. This goes for humans as well as for dogs and birds.

Could you tell us about your collaboration with Delvaux? It has been an ongoing and very enjoyable collaboration since 2012. I am so thankful I get to work with the committed and witty Delvaux team, their beautiful products, the amazing heritage… Delvaux' spirit is so chic and timeless.

What was the most important lesson you learned from working with a brand like Delvaux or any of the brands you work with? It might sound cheesy, but the life lesson would be that you have to be yourself and don’t need to try and act all ‘fashionable’. When I was younger I would never have allowed myself to do naïve and light drawings like I do now, I think. I've also learned that you have to take the tasks very seriously, work extremely hard and never lower your standards.

How many Delvaux bags do you own and is there still a "dream Delvaux "you would like to own someday? I’m the proud owner of two! A vintage bag that is in such a bad state it can't even be repaired by Delvaux’s bag clinic. The second one is a black 'Simplissime' tote that I carry everywhere. I’m likely to have a third one, soon. The bicolour ‘Madame’ in black and red is my favourite at the moment.

Tell us about your work for ELLE Belgique. How do you approach it? I’m really lucky because that is such a wonderful opportunity as well. However it is a stressful exercise because I don't consider myself much of a scenarist. Thinking of all the potential readers stops me in my tracks. I spend days coming up with a cartoon and then ask my friend Max, my boyfriend and everybody at work to proofread.

You released a super cute jewellery collection inspired by Belgian King Baudouin. Why him? Thank you, I’m glad you like it. It was called the ‘little Baldwin’ collection. Well, we all love King Baudouin, don’t we? The main reason I ended up doing something with him, is because I wanted to make jewels out of coins, and he happened to be on our previous 1-franc coins. I’m currently doing some tests in order to make a second collection. 'Baldwin' will hopefully get a makeover.

What is your biggest challenge for 2015? Getting assignments rolling more easily by working with agents and other professionals. I also want to spend more time on my personal projects and hang out more with friends and family.

When was the last time you did something that really scared you? I learned to pilot a glider when I was eighteen. That was pretty scary. I got a bit scared and didn’t go through with getting the license, but I should totally take it back up!

Who are your personal style icons? The women from Absolutely Fabulous of course! Oh, and Alexa Chung, she's a universal style icon.

What is your favourite outfit to draw in? Anything that does not squeeze my belly when seated.

Do you have a life mantra? I love mottos! I hope that one day I will discover the ultimate one. ‘Don’t think too much’, is a useful one to get you through a long day.

How do you relax? I watch John Oliver’s "Last Week Tonight" show and I spend hours on the phone with friends and relatives.

You live in Brussels, what are your favourite places in the city? I rediscovered ‘La Galerie Bortier’ recently. It’s such a wonderful place. I love the Tournay Solvay park, the Aventure movie theatre and restaurant "La Meilleure Jeunesse" for its great atmosphere. I’m not that much into fancy new places these days.



Jewelry designer

A few years ago she was still pinning haute couture on Queen Mathilde and Queen Máxima. Nowadays, her subversive Oh! badges travel the world on countless other outfits. Since 2000, Olivia Hainaut has been creating jewelry and accessories with her typical ‘fragile rock’ touch in her own universe in Brussels. We talked to the former right-hand woman of Natan’s Edouard Vermeulen about the influence of Old Hollywood, what ‘bourgeois rock’ means exactly and where her brand is going next.

What was your childhood like?I was born in Brussels and as a child I was always surrounded by intellectuals and artists. My parents loved the arts. My mother is a therapist and psychoanalyst. My father died when I was ten years old; he used to own a textile factory. I’m the youngest of three sisters, so it was a very feminine household.

Usually, people buy jewelry to stand out. A jewel can completely light up a woman’s face or outfit.

In your web bio you talk about being inspired by old photographs of your mother…My mother is the most important person in my life. She didn’t have an easy life, but she taught us so much: she sent us to dance class, she took us to museums… She loves life and thanks to her, that love was ingrained in our lives, too. When times get rough, you keep going. She insisted we chose a profession we really loved. She’s eighty but she’s still working; that’s how passionate she is. She’s chic, charismatic and the kind of mom that’s never jealous of her daughters. On the other hand she’s also really strict and she notices everything: when I gain a pound or lose one, when I’m tired or sad. It’s unconditional love. She’s my backbone. It’s thanks to her that I’m still standing.

You studied ‘Styling’ at La Cambre Fashion in Brussels. Is there a big difference between the Antwerp and Brussels fashion academies? When I was a student there, there was some rivalry between the two schools. La Cambre doesn’t have the funds Antwerp has. It’s a younger department, of course. They used to say Antwerp was harder than Brussels, but I don’t know about that. When I graduated I got into costume design for movies for a while because I love sixties and seventies cinema. But that turned out to be a very closed world. You need connections to land a job or to get to New York or L.A. I worked for Olivier Strelli and mainly focused on leather, which kindled my love for the fabric. Then I started at Natan, where I remained for eleven years.

What’s the biggest lesson you learned at Natan?I learned about taste and subtlety. Edouard Vermeulen is a bit too classic and traditional for me, but he’s extremely sophisticated and his taste is flawless. This nourished me. I learned a lot because the house still works according to the traditions of the –now disappearing- haute couture. Really old school, with a fitting salon like in Paris. I did everything from jewelry design to embroidery for the private customers. I worked for Queen Mathilde, the Duchess of Luxemburg and Queen Máxima of the House of Orange. After a while, I started my own “Olivia Hainaut” leatherwear collection with shawls made from finely perforated leather. Ten years later, I’m still selling those designs. I don’t work according to the fashion seasons. As long as I still like certain designs and they still sell, I won’t stop making them.

When did you know you wanted to design accessories?I figured it our pretty early on. Accessories are so much more fun to design. Less restrictive. My mother wears my designs but 25-year olds can rock them just as well. Aside from the collaborations with my own ateliers for my leather accessories, I make

all my jewelry myself. This way I can control everything. It’s not easy for me to delegate (laughs). My jewelry is ‘riche’: I mix older pieces with new ones, precious stones with plastic, crystal with leather. I like blending glamour with a sense of humor. I don’t like it when people just want to walk the line. You can wear couture and pin on one of my Oh! badges, too. That’s what being rich is: having the freedom to play around with those things.

With other jewelry designers you tend to combine their pieces with an outfit, but with you it’s the other way around: first the jewelry and then the clothes.“I like it when customers wear something really simple and then add my jewelry. If you’ve got plenty of money and you can buy a beautiful McQueen dress, there’s no need for lots of bling. Usually, people buy jewelry to stand out. A jewel can completely light up a woman’s face or outfit.”

What does an average day look like for you?Because I’m my own boss I work alone a lot and I need to have a lot of structure. Just recently I hadn’t managed to get everything done, so I worked through the weekend. Music on; phone off. I don’t mind being alone with my pearls and my music. Everything is ‘peace and love’ then. When I resurface after a weekend like that, I always feel a bit disconnected.

What’s your biggest challenge for next year?I would like to re-assert myself in markets where I used to have a presence, like the US, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia. When I started out I had agents working for me and I was at the “Première Classe” fair in Paris. That’s how my line made it into Bergdorf Goodman New York and Joyce China, but because I had so much work to do at Natan, it became hard to spend a lot of time to my own label. The potential is there, but I don’t use it as much as I should. I find it very hard to put other people to work.

What are your current inspirations?I really like fine pearls and leather these days. Pearls are a bit bourgeois, but the leather balances this out. ‘Bourgeois Rock’ I like to call it. My style icon is Blondie. That’s why I prefer shopping in London. That city is the perfect mix between the fragile ‘English Rose’ and punk. With my badges, I like to add a little softness and humor to the world.

Is there anyone you’d like to see wearing your designs? If I had to choose a celebrity I would go for Cate Blanchett. At least she’s different. The problem is that most stars I’d like to see wearing my designs are dead. For example: I’ve always been a big fan of Romy Schneider, Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis and Liz Taylor.

What are you most proud of when it comes to your career?I guess the fact that I’ve done it all by myself. I think it’s important that you always aim higher in fashion. If you settle for your comfort zone, it stops being interesting. I keep looking forward but I work very slowly, step by step. I don’t want to be a star; I just want to be able to make a living out of my craft. For a long time to come.


CEO, product designer, make-up artist, ...

With the "Inspiring Women" series Xandres continues its efforts to put strong women and their success stories in the spotlight. This month we had the honor of interviewing Ellis Faas. To pin her down seems an almost impossible task: CEO, product designer, legendary make-up artist, photographer,… our latest “Inspiring Woman”, creator of the ELLIS FAAS range of beauty products, is a little surprised when I sum up the long list of her many roles. She has collaborated with the biggest names in photography (Mario Testino, Inez & Vinoodh, etc.), her photos have been published in every fashion magazine in the world, she has taken part in Fashion Weeks as a look creator for Dior and Dries Van Noten, to name a few. But her most impressive attribute aren't the celebrity names she has been linked with, but rather that her personality asserted itself at a very young age.

When you were a child, it seems that you already knew who you were, what you wanted and didn’t want… How do you explain that? I can’t explain it. I quickly discovered that it wasn’t the case for everyone and that I was very fortunate. I had the intuition and I knew that I could follow that intuition. This probably was due to how I was raised: I come from a family that encourages mutual respect and personal development.

Do you remember the first beauty photo that made an impression on you? I think it was a shot by renowned fashion photographer Guy Bourdin in French Vogue, or else a photo by Serge Lutens for Dior. I was enticed into the world of fashion and photography very early, as my mother had a subscription to the Dutch magazine “Avenue”.

Serge Lutens, who you have already mentioned, had a significant influence on you. Why? The atmosphere, the colours, the dramaturgy. Everything evokes the cinema of the 1920s, but in a more modern, coloured version. His world fascinates me. I wanted to know how these women spoke, ate, smoked. Just by looking at the photos, it is possible to imagine an entire world.

I want ELLIS FAAS products to be effective, easy to take with you, flexible and beautiful, all at the same time.

You have worked with all the design and photography icons, from Jean-Paul Goude to Jean Paul Gaultier and Yves Saint-Laurent. What are the main lessons you learned from these collaborations? I jumped at the opportunities without asking many questions. I learned to pay attention so I could identify people who might have a different agenda and to keep my distance. To avoid getting drawn into the vortex and instead to step back. To use my energy to understand the message that the designer wants to convey and to create an atmosphere around that. I obviously learned to relativise too. A child was waiting for me at home and that was much more important than the latest fashionable little skirt.

As a mother, what are you most proud of? What have you passed on to your daughter? Humour and compassion. I would also like to say musicality, because she is an excellent musician, but she certainly doesn’t get that from me! (laughs)

You are also a queen of efficiency. I use a lot of your products. The drawers in my bathroom are overflowing with beauty and hair products, but clearly yours are more effective and more nicely packaged. Why is that so important to you? Exactly for the reasons you just brought up. I want ELLIS FAAS products to be effective, easy to take with you, flexible and beautiful, all at the same time. Most other brands offer a range with five tones, of which only three get used, while the others crack and become unusable. I was always fascinated by the efficiency of soldiers who can transport so much in such a small bag. So I had the idea to design a sort of “ammunition box” for organising make-up accessories. You can put what you need in it, no more and no less. Everything stays well organised and clean. And there is no problem with security at the airport: you can’t take a bottle of water in, but an “ammo box” passes with no problem!

If you had to recommend three products from your collection, which would they be? The mascara and foundation are our best sellers, and the lipstick has also been very successful. It is available in 36 carefully blended colours. But I would also recommend the eyeshadow, which is truly revolutionary. You will never go back.

Your products are intended for every woman, regardless of skin colour. Jada Pinkett Smith and Mary J. Blige are fans of ELLIS FAAS. Has your range always been so comprehensive? Since the beginning, I have felt it very important to have a range that offers something for everybody. Keep in mind, other major brands also have a greater selection of foundations than what you will find in the big stores. But retailers don’t always sell the full range because they claim that the darker shades are less in demand. We insist that the ELLIS FAAS range has all the shades available in the collection.

Online make-up sales have been taking off. Your website and online shop are magnificent but how can the customer be confident about selecting the correct shade of foundation online? What advice would you give a woman who wants to purchase an ELLIS FAAS foundation or corrector, for example? Just send an email to to request samples. You can test all eight of our foundation shades.

How have you managed to raise your daughter while pursuing such a high-level career? I raised my daughter by myself, and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my own mother. A make-up artist at my level travels a lot, so I had to have someone very flexible who I could truly count on and trust. Even so, I didn’t accept every job offer. I turned down certain offers that some people considered necessary for my career. Perhaps I haven’t always taken the best decisions for my career, but I had other priorities at home, period. My brother was already my agent at the time. He loves my daughter and always acts as a buffer.

Working with family can’t always be easy… Thijs and I have very different temperaments, but we complete each other extremely well and of course have a lot of affinity for each other. We love each other and know that that is much more important than money, success or status. We have come a long way together. Even when we were children, he was my first make-up model. So it made sense to create ELLIS FAAS together. We can’t imagine fighting about money; it isn’t in our genes.

You also dreamed about becoming a fashion designer when you were younger. Who are the designers today that you admire the most? How would you describe your own style? My style is dormant at the moment, I’m afraid, but it will reawaken one day. I love drama in beauty and in fashion. Alexander McQueen will always be a hero for me.

You do all the photos for your campaigns yourself. Your work has been exhibited in Amsterdam and LA. You published the book "Ellis Faas: On the Edge of Beauty". How far do you want to go with your photography? Would you consider doing campaigns for others? I’m not yet thinking about doing photos for anyone else, absolutely not. I need to develop my art on my own and find my way. I appreciate the ability to work in complete independence: it fits perfectly with my headstrong personality!


Communication manager Biennale Interieur

Soon the city of Kortrijk will reclaim its title as the epicentre of design during the 24th Interior Design Biennial. Do you have a thirst for contemporary design? Come drink in the inspiration at INTERIEUR 2014. To organize a ten-day event with such high standards and even higher numbers of daily visitors, you need a team with a specific skill-set that is willing to go hard (very, very hard) for several months in a row. We sat down with communication manager An, who was originally trained as an architect, lived in London for several years, and is currently in the midst of her second Biennial vortex experience, to have a chat about job-detours, night mailing, Zen and the art of swimming and –of course- the must-sees of INTERIEUR 2014.

This is the second time you’re on the organizing team of the Biennial. How did you meet them?By inviting people to have a coffee with me. I returned to Belgium from London without any professional network. So one day someone told me: “Maybe you should give Joost Vanhecke of Interieur a call.” Four coffees later, Joost told me: “Come do something with us.” Suddenly I had a freelance job on my hands.

There’s one event every two years. Does that mean: start organizing a couple of months in advance and then do nothing for a year and a half?After each biennial there’s a short break of about six months. Then everything starts up again. The idea is that even when there’s a gap year, we still make some noise about INTERIEUR. That’s why we’re organizing the “Interieur Awards”. We travel a lot to a talk about the biennial event and to motivate young designers to enter. And then there are brochures to be written; there’s a website to be filled…

You were trained as an architect and you’ve worked as one in London, but the financial crisis hit you hard…In 2008 I was still working in the field of residential architecture, but after the crisis a lot of things just stopped and everything else became a compromise. Creating a building needed to be cheaper and every “edge” was lost. I didn’t like that at all, so I started a course in ‘Curating Contemporary Design’. Not long after that, I returned to Belgium with my boyfriend and our daughter. Now I’ve taken to calling myself “an architect on a detour”. (laughs)

Don't stay on your fluffy cloud but to go look for partnerships instead.

Tell me about this edition of INTERIEUR…Well, the curator is the British architect, author and researcher Joseph Grima. Grima is part of the Space Caviar collective. It’s no longer about displaying a clean product in a gallery so snobby ladies toting Delvaux-bags can come ogle the goods. Grima suggested the slogan:‘The Home Does Not Exist’. Quite controversial, especially in the context of brands showing their furniture. He really wants to ask the question: “Where are we now?” And he does it with an exposition called ‘The Theatre of Everyday Life’. He just wants to talk about the living room, really. For example: everyone is digitally linked these days. So what’s a living room in a world where Skype is important? Is the room itself still important or is your laptop your living room?

Can you recommend anything else?The bars we’re building in Kortrijk: the “Gone Fishing”, “Behind The Curtain”, “Dried Chat Room” and “Gelato Meccanico” bars. All winning designs of the “Interieur Awards”. These –often young- designers are encouraged not to ‘stay on their fluffy cloud’ but to go look for partnerships instead. We want to give them a platform and give commercial brands the opportunity to show that they support these kinds of projects.

The guys from GOOSE are also involved…They are taking over four floors of the BUDA tower. Each band member is claiming a floor of his own. Each one will be performing something they specifically created for the occasion. 100 people are allowed per floor, so everyone sees the performance of one band member. Then there’s an after-party where people can swap experiences. This is also the goal of the Kortrijk city part of things: when the doors of the Kortrijk Xpo close at 18h, people can move on to the city, where there will be lots more to experience.

To design the uniform of the hosts and hostesses, you selected Mattia Van Severen, a 2013 graduate of the Antwerp Fashion Academy. For each new edition, we collaborate with a new designer. Often it’s someone who hasn’t ‘broken through’ yet. This year we chose Mattia and I think he fits our tradition of wanting to be a bit avant-garde. We want to stay ahead of the trends.

Back to you. Before we started the interview, you were telling me that 16-hour days are no exception when you’re getting close to the start of INTERIEUR. How do you manage to relax? Every weekend, I try to set aside one afternoon and one morning for my family. Every Sunday morning we go swimming, come what may. I have to mention I couldn’t keep up this pace without the –much appreciated- help of my boyfriend. But the bottom line is: I work way too hard. Waking up at night and mailing reminders to yourself, that sort of thing.

Thankfully, you’ve a got a long break to look forward to.Yes, I’m up for very large projects, but afterwards you have to leave me be for a while. Then I want to go to Brazil or Argentina. My boyfriend and I try to organise our lives in a way that allows us to afford these breaks. Otherwise, I could never keep all of this up.

What do you miss about London?We’ve been back in Belgium for about three years now and I miss the surprises you just encounter on the street: little things that make you smile like the local street art. And making friends much faster. In London, almost everyone lives far away from their families, so it’s easier to connect. But on the other hand, in Antwerp we are able to afford ample living space in the heart of the city.

You’ve travelled a lot, you’ve lived abroad and you’ve had many different jobs. What would your 15-year old self think of the grown-up version of An? (thinks to herself for a while) I think I would be very proud of my place in the world today. I grew up in a village with a mom who wasn’t from that village. We always thought you needed to look further and discover things. I think I’ve always secretly known I would do whatever I wanted. There was always the pretty one, the clever one: everybody had something, but it in the end I came to the conclusion: “I think it’s best if I stay myself.” (laughs)

Biënnale Interieur 2014
17-26 October


Belgian jazz-sensation

“Be in the moment”: that’s the mantra of Mélanie de Biasio, the Belgian jazz-sensation with Italian roots. It’s also what Mélanie expects from her audience: experiencing the Now, savouring it. Maybe that’s why it’s hard for her to be interviewed: looking back or looking forward seems a bit redundant to someone who really wants to ‘be here now’. But Xandres persisted anyway, if only to congratulate her on her triumphant and slightly turbulent performance at the Werchter festival. And besides, how often do you get a chance to talk to a home-grown artist that gets compared to the likes of Billie Holiday?

Was it an obvious choice to play at a big rock festival like Werchter? All the festivals me and my band performed at this summer were different. At Rock Werchter, we also played just before the Belgian football team played Argentina in the quarterfinals of the World Cup. When we arrived at the site, it was clear from the start that it was going to be an intense day. I had decided beforehand that we were going to get on stage without a set list. We just wanted to surf the energy of the audience. It was a unique experience: playing for mad football fans. We’ve also played at the prestigious Montreux Jazz festival in Switzerland, you know. The complete opposite. But it’s really cool to meet these kinds of challenges headfirst.

You must really have a lot of faith in your band to say to them: “Leave the set list, let’s see where we end up.”We’ve known each other for ten years, now. We don’t have to talk about a lot of things, anymore. We even don’t rehearse very often. I know them through and through. We start from songs on my album, like “A Stomach Is Burning” or “No Deal”, but then we often improvise. This means no two concerts will be the same. Every single person watching us has the right to a unique, evanescent experience. I also make sure the crowd is part of the performance. That’s why our shows can be so intense and magical.

Leave the set list, let’s see where we end up.

Have you always been able to ‘let go’ so easily? (laughs) Oh no, not at all! I have to consciously work on that every day. At Rock Werchter I thought to myself: “Mélanie, you have two options: either you try to control the situation (meaning: playing right before the biggest sports event of the year), or you let it go and try to coast on the energy of the moment.” I chose the latter, because option number one really wasn’t an option at all.

You grew up in Charleroi, a city that has its moody and darker corners. Your music is also often described as ‘moody’. Do you think your hometown has anything to do with that? Charleroi might not seem like a great city to most people, but to me it’s a gold nugget hiding inside a lump of coal. At Charleroi you’ll find lots of strong personalities and we’re all pretty direct, too. Those are qualities I like to nurture in myself. Charleroi is full of contrasts: lots of light but some darkness, too: a bit like my own music.

You’ve toured as the opener for Eels for a while. What was that like? You always hear about support acts for bigger bands being treated poorly, but we made friends for life on that tour. They shared everything with us: their technical team, their equipment… At one point they even sold our merchandise on their stand. It was an incredible experience.

Did you learn something from a band that’s been playing at a global level for so long? Yes, that I need to keep going. I love the life of a musician. And that I need to follow my instinct.

You’ll be playing the Royal Circus in Brussels, soon… That’s such a dream come true! We’ll be performing songs from my two albums, of course, but I’ll also debut a new song, probably. The surroundings there are so beautiful, I think we’ll mainly be inspired by the room itself. I’m sure it will be a special night.

You spend a lot of time on your lyrics, music and performance. Do you do the same for your stage outfits? Not at all. Off-stage I like wearing silk and cashmere and I like simple but beautifully made pieces. But on-stage I always wear the same. I’ve perfected my ‘worker’s apparel’ to the point where I feel comfortable in it and I don’t want to wear anything else.

Last question: who’s the most inspiring woman in history? Nina Simone during the 60’s and 70’s. Everything about her was so good.

On November 12, Mélanie De Biasio will be performing at the Cirque Royal in Brussels.


Belgian model

Amélie Lens is one of the most sought-after and versatile Belgian models of recent years. As a young model she conquered the hearts of Jean-Paul Gaultier, who lovingly called her “Ma Petite Belge”, and Ann Demeulemeester, who called upon Amélie often to try on the “final looks” before sending them on to the Parisian catwalks. Her image towered above just about every city street on the planet when the Martin Margiela x H&M campaign was launched.

When she’s not posing in front of the lens of renowned photographers like (Xandres campaign photographer) Wendelien Daan, you can find her behind the decks showing off her talents as a DJ. Clubbing at night and giving good face in the morning, how do you pull that off, exactly?

The busier it gets, the healthier I try to live

In 2010, I started a DJ concept with my boyfriend, Sam Deliaert, who later became a producer and DJ himself. In the end, we had to pull the plug on that project because my modelling work made it necessary for me to be abroad a lot and for long periods of time. In 2011, I started the DJ duo Søren with a friend. We were resident DJ’s for the ‘Playground’ show on Studio Brussels, a national radio station and we were booked all over Europe. We were in Helsinki one weekend, Dresden, Amsterdam or Venice the next.

Now people can also book you as a solo act, going by the alias RENEE, but also as Amélie Lens. What’s the difference between RENEE and Amélie Lens?Up until now, most of my bookings are for fashion and press events, where they mostly know me by my real name. As “DJ Amélie Lens” I play my most accessible sets. But I really love electronica, techno, tech-house and minimal, too. That’s why I’ve created the alter ego RENEE: those sets are full of darker, deeper, harder but also warm sounds.

Where does the name come from? I’ve given a lot of thought to it, but eventually I chose RENEE because I was looking for an androgynous, universal name with a hint of mystery to it. I’ve always said I would name my first-born daughter Renée. It’s also the name of my mom, who passed away.

You live your life at night, you’re on the road all the time but as a top model you also need to look and feel fresh in the morning. What’s your secret? I always try to get 7 hours of sleep and the busier it gets, the healthier I try to live. Most people start eating fast food and drinking cola or energy drinks “because they need the sugar”. I do the opposite; your body spends a lot of energy trying to break down all that unhealthy stuff so you just end up exhausting yourself even more. Sometimes I’m completely spent while my next day off is still nowhere in sight. The little free time I have left, I make nut bars and prepare enough quinoa for the entire week. But you know, sometimes, on my days off, I do call the pizza guy, too. (laughs)

You’re very close with your grandmother. What’s the most important life lesson she has passed on to you? My grandmother is very important to me. She’s always been my role model. She raised her six children all by herself and she took me in when I was eleven. She taught me that family, health and lots of good food are the most important things in life. She’s a very strong woman full of confidence.

You’ve worked together with Wendelien Daan, who also shot several campaigns for Xandres. Tell me how that one picture with you wearing nothing but a Delvaux bag came to be. We spent two days at the Côte d’Azur for that ELLE Magazine shoot and it was the first time I had worked with Wendelien. She gives you a lot of freedom as a model and that’s always fun. When we shot that image, we were in the street on a mountain with a fantastic view. I walked up to the tree in a bathrobe and when no one was around, the stylist quickly took off my robe and we started shooting. In the picture that made it into the magazine, I’m actually looking over my shoulder because I genuinely thought someone was coming. That shoot was in December. It was 8°C out there. Ah, the glamorous life of a model! (laughs)

You worked with director and photographer Sam Taylor-Wood for the MM / H&M campaign. Your movements on those images are really great. How does that process work in your mind? And would you ever consider and acting career? I remember that time so well! My agency called me like: “Amélie, H&M wants to take a look at you for a project. Can you leave for Paris right now? There’s a train leaving in 30 minutes!” I jumped into a cab, got to the station and when I arrived at the casting in Paris they had a chair ready. They told me: “Stand on that and dance.” I’m no dancer, so this wasn’t easy for me. I just started to move and when I got off the chair they told me I was booked. The shoot was the next morning. Maybe I’d like to act, but I haven’t given it much thought. If the opportunity presents itself I’ll definitely go for it!

Name three photographers you would still like to work with.Well, the three biggest, of course! I’ve already had the honour of standing in front of the lens of Tim Walker. I’d really love to work with Mario Testino or Steven Meisel.

You’re in love with the city of Antwerp, can you give our readers 3 places they must visit when they’re in Antwerp? Bar: Sips and Vitrin, Restaurant: Le John, Store: Graanmarkt 13.

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell the 14 year-old Amélie Lens? Don’t grow up just yet!!

Instagram : @Amelie_Lens

Credits photoAmélie Lens (Dominique Models) for Elle NL March 2014
Photography Wendelien Daan (Unit CMA)
Styling Thomas Vermeer
Hair and makeup Judith Neyens (NCL )


Chef of the year 2014

Arabelle Meirlaen (41), owner of her eponymous restaurant, has been pinning prizes to her chef’s apron since 2005. That’s the year she was crowned ‘best chef of Wallonia’. In 2008, she was named ‘Lady Chef of the Year’, which she topped on 2014 with the all-conquering title of ‘chef of the year’ by foodie bible Gault & Millau. Xandres spoke to the woman behind the ‘intuitive kitchen’ approach about success and not letting it go to your head.

Arabelle Meirlaen: Winning prizes is important, because they make sure my cooking receives the necessary attention and getting your first star is nice, of course. But I’m only happy when everybody else is happy: my clients, my staff and I. We are all working towards the same goal and that goal isn’t to win as many prizes as possible. What I do want is to live a balanced life and feel good about myself. This is reflected in my cooking and people pick up on that and appreciate it.

I’m only happy when everybody else is happy: my clients, my staff and I

As a teenager you couldn’t decide between a career as a stylist or as an interior architect. Is your love for design also a part of your restaurant? During my studies I was mainly attracted to practical trades. It was my mother who suggested I learned how to cook so I could have that under my belt, at least. (laughs) Turns out, I was so fascinated by it, I want to pursue the restaurant business further. Having my own restaurant combines all my interests: organization, decoration, creation. It’s hard work, but my restaurant is literally my home and I’m surrounded by a wonderful staff so it all feels right.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned since you started your ‘intuitive kitchen’ and do you have any good tips for us? I’ve learned to use different ingredients than the ones you’ll traditionally find in the ‘gourmet kitchen’. Apparently, my body reacts poorly to products like flour, cream and cow milk, so I started using more organic and regional products. I make sure my vegetables are fresh and often serve them with proteins, which improves digestion. I also like working with lemon and vinegar. They balance out the acids in your stomach. I also avoid mixing ingredients too much. A good tip, one I take to heart myself, is to get your vegetables from ‘green sources’, such as farms or local growers that cultivate their own products.

In case anyone wants to book a table at “Arabelle Meirlaen”: do you recommend any hot spots nearby? My restaurant isn’t far from Durbuy and there are wonderful bike routes, hike trails, parks and playgrounds for the kids. And there’s a new golf course, too, if you’re into that!

Being a chef, you spend most of your time in an apron. Do you follow the fashion world on your days off? Unfortunately, my time off is very limited, but I do make time to visit the fabric trade show “Salon du tissu”. I go there to choose my own fabrics and make clothing for my daughters and me. As far as interior design goes, I love natural pieces made of wood, objects from the 70’s, the brand ‘Knoll’ and I’ve got ‘Spiridon’ chandeliers at home.

In closing: what’s the most important lesson you would like to teach your daughters? I talk to them a lot about their feelings and interests. I won’t push them into professional cooking, for example. I really want them to be able to do what they love. My father taught me that. He invented and manufactured a number of machines used inside farm buildings. He was able to live on what he created and I’m really proud of that. He also listened to his body and paid attention to what was good for him. I do that, too. I eat what I think suits me. Intuition is everything.


Chef of the year 2014


Top dancer and choreographer

Living in a successful dance company is living in a blur of travel, creative searching and discipline. Top dancer and choreographer Cynthia Loemij describes it (with a cute lingering Dutch accent) as getting on a train: once you hop on, you get whisked away at great speed. She first boarded our national treasure of modern dance called ‘Rosas’in 1991, when she was selected –much to her surprise- by Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker to take the stage.

Things really took off for you right from the beginning, didn’t they? Yes, right after I graduated from the Rotterdam Dance Academy. I was studying to be a teacher and those four years included a lot of dance training. I was allowed to transfer to the dancers’ division but I ended up auditioning for Rosas, getting hired and I’ve stayed there ever since. I remember thinking: “Great! I’m going to live in Brussels for a year!” That seemed like such a romantic idea to me at the time. And here I am, 23 years later… (laughs)

You get on the train and it becomes a blur right away. Yes, Rosas really is like getting on a non-stop train. Every year there are one or two productions in the works and then you start touring. Then there’s the ‘repertoire’ pieces you need to learn and you tour with those, too. In the beginning, I was away from home most of the time. Before I knew it, I had spent ten years of my life there: I had danced in many productions, I did an opera and made two films. It never slows down. Right now, there’s a big museum project and other ideas are surfacing already.

You’re leaving for New York, but there is no time to enjoy the city, I presume? That’s an understatement. We leave on Wednesday, dress rehearsal is on Thursday, on Friday and Saturday we perform ‘Rosas danst Rosas’, on Sunday and Monday we perform ‘Elena’s Aria’, on Tuesday and Wednesday we perform ‘Bartok’ and then we go home. The dress rehearsals for those shows are around noon. In the morning, we need to be massaged for 45 minutes so in between those two you might get a chance to grab some breakfast, but that’s it. The shows are really demanding, too. ‘Rosas danst Rosas’ is two hours long, a real marathon. Late nights in the city are not a good idea, really.

I need to have a certain place in the dressing room where I feel comfortable: not in the middle, but in a corner somewhere.

Do have any rituals before you go on? Everybody has one. I need to have a certain place in the dressing room where I feel comfortable: not in the middle, but in a corner somewhere. I need to do a handstand, sometimes. It depends on the show. When we did ‘Drumming’ I needed to do one really high jump.

Do you need to follow a certain diet? Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker is really into the Macrobiotic diet, but I’m not, really. I enjoy eating it in the P.A.R.T.S. cafeteria because it has a lot of vegetables and it’s organic. But macrobiotic foodies don’t eat meat, fish or dairy products and I really like a slice of cheesecake or an ice cream now and then. You have to be careful, of course: you feel the difference in energy levels when you’ve eaten a hamburger and fries. If you eat badly and drink alcohol, you can forget about dancing that day. Your muscles will let you know right away it’s not happening and your breathing gets worse, too.

What happens after New York? A short break and then I’m immediately off on a tour to Berlin. After that, we’re performing ‘Vortex Temporum’, the new choreography created by Anne Teresa and pretty soon I will also be joining the “Drumming” tour as a rehearsal director.

Is that what you usually do on a tour? No, this is my first time. Usually, I’m going as a performer but a few years ago I also started the smaller dance company OVAAL. We did two shows and I decided to go freelance so we would have more time to create and also to not always have to be available all the time. I think it’s very important to be able to spend time with my daughter Stella and my husband Clive.

Is it hard to make the switch from art to regular life? One moment you’re getting standing ovations and the next you’re packing a lunch for the ten-year-old. It’s a good thing there are lunches to be packed. If there’s nothing to do and Stella is in school and Clive is at work and I’m home after a tour, I can feel a bit lost sometimes. And just when you’ve found your balance again, it’s often time to start a new piece or go back to teaching.

Rosas collaborated with Dries van Noten on several occasions. Do you have any influence on the costumes? No, Anne Teresa decides with Tim Van Steenbergen, who also did some costumes for us, or Anne-Catherine Kunz, who makes the Rosas costumes most of the time.

Are there costumes you’ve performed in that have been especially memorable? The Dries Van Noten pieces for “Just Before” and “Drumming” were very beautiful. The clothes we used to wear in “Bartok”, a bit of a schoolgirl look, were kind of fun, too.

What about when you’re creating for OVAAL, your own company? Do you go for your own ideas then? For our first ideas, we asked Anne-Catherine because she’s a good friend of ours. Her briefing was to create costumes that I would never wear in real life. So she picked a bright pink dress. I would never wear that. I like leaving decisions to others. You get to be surprised by what people think and what they offer you. You tend to go for the same thing if you do it yourself. If the wardrobe is up to me, it’s black most of the time. (laughs)

You’ve been performing at the highest level for quite some time, now. What’s your biggest challenge at the moment? Finding a work-life balance and finding a sense of personal challenge in teaching. I still like performing the best. You’re really ‘in the now’. You can’t think about anything else. You can’t worry. You’re dancing ‘now’. It’s a kind of mediation, really.

That seems you great about what you do. It’s very athletic and it requires a lot of concentration, but you do have the satisfaction of working with things that create a certain kind of beauty, or a moment that would not have been possible otherwise. Yes, absolutely, that’s why I keep doing it.

Is that a constant throughout your life? Finding that beauty? No, it changes. In the beginning I had such an intense drive: every step, every moment of suspense, every breath mattered. I could get really worked up about that. If a show didn’t go well or I didn’t feel well during the performance, it was hard for me to get over that. I could also be very preoccupied with how the audience reacted. But all of that fades after a while. After ten years you think; “Why was I so worried about this ten years ago? Nobody remembers. I just need to enjoy dancing.” That’s something I’ve learned to do.

You’ve been at the top for twenty years. Do you have any diehard fans? Are there people who travel to see every single Rosas show? When I was younger, I had a lot of fans, you know! There are some diehards that turn up at every show. In Brussels, there was always a little man with big glasses in the front row. But we suspected him of having other motives for coming than his love for modern dance. (laughs)

© photo: Herman Sorgeloos

A good architect not only helps you design and build your project, they take away a whole lot of stress.Charlotte Lardeyret

Jewelry designer

In 2015, not only will we continue to shine an online spotlight on the women that inspire us; we want to offer some of them a tangible real-life platform as well. Kicking off this initiative is 29 year-old jewellery designer Lore Van Keer, who has designed a unique “Lore Van Keer for Xandres” jewellery set in her signature minimal style.This calls for a conversation with this “Inspiring Woman” about big dreams, gold-coated stereotypes and what it feels like to know one of your designs is roaming through the halls of the Royal Palace of Laeken.

You have just created some jewellery for Queen Mathilde, which garnered you a big amount of press.  It started with a competition for artisanal Belgian souvenirs by Unizo (Union of Self-Employed Entrepreneurs) called ‘Belgian Beauties’. Four designers were asked to create a prototype that would launch the competition. Because Queen Mathilde would be handing out the final award, we also designed pieces for her; 18-carat white gold earrings with white diamonds, in my case. Of course I did some research on what she likes to wear. She was very enthusiastic about the earrings!

What do you hope to accomplish with a collaboration like this? Well it’s a big honour to be asked in the first place. Last summer I launched a gold collection and I’d love to expand on that. So when the press featured my design it was a priceless form of advertisement, obviously. Who knows, I might become a supplier with a royal warrant one day!

Dream big, I love it! You have to, right?! I want to preserve my own style, though. I’m not headed towards making regal designs encrusted in diamonds and pearls. I like making unique custom pieces, but my signature needs to be present.

I analysed a leaf structure in one of the textiles and turned it into an abstract shape.

Meanwhile, TV host Eva Daeleman has also been rocking your jewellery and I was told one of your friends played a part in this… I was at a bar with friends and I let it slip how nice it would be to have someone famous wearing my designs. So then somebody replied that they knew Eva Daeleman and would simply tweet her about this. Eva responded immediately, a week later we met up at the national TV station and our collaboration was ready to go! What I love about this set-up is that she wears my pieces because she really likes them and not because I happen to be interested in sponsoring her. We’ve gone out to lunch together occasionally since then as well and I always get a great response through social media when she’s been spotted in a “Lore Van Keer”. The buzz she creates is incredible. But lucky shots like this one make me want to go for it even harder. It’s weird how the love for my craft seems to burn brighter with the years.

You’ve designed a set of earrings and a necklace for the very first “Inspiring Women by Xandres” collection. How did this collaboration come to be? I thought it was really nice just to be asked to be their “Inspiring Woman”. It’s lovely to hear that you’re considered to be just that! So I started out by studying the fabrics used in the current collection. I analysed a leaf structure in one of the textiles and turned it into an abstract shape. Xandres always launches different capsule collections and I wanted to design a piece that goes with every line. Something that works just as well on a dressier outfit as it would on on a loose-fitting dress or oversized jumper.

Are you a Xandres fan yourself? Yes, I love picking up anything ‘casual chic’; like the gorgeous grey biker jacket from the latest collection. The slightly oversized pieces are also right up my alley!

What makes a piece of jewellery a “Lore Van Keer” according to you?The abstract element is important to me. I like minimal designs that have a certain fineness and femininity. I don’t want to make jewellery that you can spot on the corner of every street, but at the same time I still want it to be wearable.

Who are your style icons?Fashion designers like Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten. Women like Hannelore Knuts. I’m also a fan of furniture designer and architect Mies Van Der Rohe’s work.

Tell us about your new collection. My latest collection, available as from March 2015, is called “Stereotype”. The idea behind it is that everyone immediately stereotypes or labels each other. I want to give a positive twist to those kinds of labels by literally gilding them in coats of silver and gold. Also, some pieces that I’ve designed in the past will definitely stay in the new collection. Those are items I love making like the mosaic collection, which introduced me to a wider audience. I continuously add to that collection or edit pieces out.

That’s a nice kind of creative liberty you’ve granted yourself there. Also very important, I think. I often work with black stones or with silver, both timeless materials. So why would I drop them from the collection after six months?

What’s your next challenge? At the moment my collection is only available in Belgium. I’d like to cross the border with my designs but that’s not so simple.

What stores would you like your designs to be sold at? I’m still in the process of looking around, but I know I don’t want to be stocked at classic jeweller’s stores. Since I always create jewellery that I like to wear myself, I pay close attention that my brand is carried at stores that sell clothes I also love, for instance.

Do you also make made-to-order jewellery? Absolutely. Aside from my own collection, I make unique pieces like wedding or engagement rings. I really enjoy creating those because a conversation is actually at the root of the jewel. And through a combination of designs that the client has shown me – or my own designs that they already know – I can offer them something completely new.

Do you travel a lot for inspiration? Architecture and interior design really inspire me and I also read a lot of fashion magazines. You won’t easily catch me on a lengthy backpacking trip, but I do like to go on city trips. Cities inspire me a lot, passers-by that exude a certain allure can really pop ideas into my head.

You have your own store in Wolvertem, are there any other projects you’re still dreaming of? I’d love to open another store in the long run, but in a bigger city. A store in Paris would be the ultimate dream. It seems a bit far-fetched at the moment, but who knows… When I was at school my biggest dream was to see my name on a jewellery box.

And you accomplished that! You know, I might feel a bit euphoric at the moment but I’m also really aware that I need to stay focused. My jewellery still needs to get made at the end of the day. And regarding any new horizons, I always go through the same process: I do my research, listen to my instincts and then… I just take the leap.




When we talk to Parisian Architect Charlotte Lardeyret, she has just successfully finished two prestigious projects that could not be more different: one being a loft in her city’s hip and lively Marais quarter, the other an extension of a 16th century estate in Pays d’Auge. Always feeling at ease in different surroundings and embracing challenges is what drives her. Don’t make her choose between her love for cooking, her passion for fashion or her knack for –wait for it- securing your dream art pieces at auctions. We talked to this chic lady about hunting, revealing secret treasures in Paris and how to get the most out of your own architect.

When was the last time you were really proud of yourself? I designed a flat in Paris for a client who lives in NYC, which meant I mostly communicated with them via Internet. They were so happy with my work and my understanding of the way they want to live, that they have also asked me to buy their art for them. Which means I get to go to all the good art fairs and auctions.

That is a passion of yours as well isn’t it? Definitely. If I hadn’t been an architect I would have been an auctioneer.

Do you have any tips on how to find an architect who “gets” you? First of all go through the official listings. Scan their projects. If you like what they have done for other people, make a first non-committal appointment. Make sure that you feel comfortable around that person. If the vibe isn’t right, it is not going to work. A good architect not only helps you design and build your project, they save you money, time, space, negotiate with contractors and basically take away a whole lot of stress.

Where do you find inspiration for your designs? When I travel, go to art fairs and auctions. When I meet and collaborate with other artists, like for instance my friend and fashion designer Celine Meteil, who I have been following since her first sketches.

We know you love to cook. Do you have a signature dish? I love to cook game: wild ducks and boar from the region where I was born called La Sarthe. Every year I like to follow the hunters during hunting season. The meat is low fat and tastes delicious.

Which three things are essential to you on a day off? See friends, do sports and eat a good plate of cheese.

You are one of the coolest Parisiènnes we know. Can you share some secret places we need to visit next time we are in your city?  “Le Fantome” is a new bar hosted by the successful team behind Le Baron. If you like to play vintage video games and drink cocktails, this is your spot! “The Carpenters Gallery” has a good and very avant-garde selection of art. “The Broken Arm” has a superb clothing selection and the great coffee is a lovely plus. If it’s nice and sunny, go have drink on the rooftop terrace of “Au Perchoir”. The view of Paris is lovely. “The Gallery Alaïa” in Rue de la Verrerie is a must for all lovers of real couture. And for a night out, go to “Le Nuba”. The music there is really good.

What are you looking forward to these next couple of months? Doing the most important thing ever…

Which is? Enjoying life!


Renowned Dutch Photographer

After a successful first collaboration, Xandres booked the renowned Dutch photographer Wendelien Daan for a second project: capturing the Spring/Summer 2014 campaign. Wendelien has a designer degree, but set it aside to devote herself to fashion photography. And successfully so: her work has been published in VOGUE Paris, i-D, Marie Claire and ELLE (amongst others); she’s worked with Dries Van Noten and Viktor & Rolf and top models Cara Delevigne, Lara Stone and Alek Wek have all stared down her lens. Time to sit down and have a chat with this inspiring woman who says her profession is “a calling” and names “Madonna around 1985” and the alien-huntress Sigourney Weaver as her style icons.

I hear you’re a passionate biker. Do tell! I got my motorcycle license 3 years ago and I still regret not having done it sooner. Apart from photography, it’s my favourite thing to do. I would like to ride every single day. The art of controlling that kind of raw power on two wheels gives me an enormous kick, even more than when I’m skiing down a mountain at high speed. I don’t really care about the destination of the ride, it’s the road that matters. The more switchbacks, the better! (laughs).”

Do you think there’s a clear link between your love for extreme sports and your photography?No, I’m not a sports photographer and I’m not looking for a fashion shoot with fast cars or anything… Although… (laughs) I just like to lose myself in extreme sports. It’s my drug.

You have a degree as a fashion designer, but after your graduation you immersed yourself in photography. How did that happen? When I was a student, I could never find someone who was able to visually capture my work exactly the way I wanted it. So I did it myself. I tend to think in images and stories; photography is one of the best ways to express all of that. It really is a calling.

You work with the most beautiful men and women in the world (according to fashion standards), but what do you think makes a good model?A professional model is physically and mentally well prepared for a shoot. Being fit and having lots of energy on the day is important, because we often work late. It’s also very helpful if they know their own body and body language. And they have to be able to put their shame aside and give all they’ve got when it comes to their ‘character’ of the day.

How do you create an atmosphere on set? If it’s a dynamic shoot, I put on some good music. I like working with a core team that knows each other well, so the vibe is friendly but everyone also stays focused.

Who has inspired you the most this past year?Thomas Vermeer, the stylist who has worked with me on the Xandres campaigns. He’s young and eager, which is so refreshing.

Could you tell us a bit more about the Xandres S/S 14 campaign? What was the inspiration? We went for a strong, fashionable studio shoot that had a little rock ’n ’roll edge to it. It was all about capturing those spontaneous, candid moments.

Can you name a pivotal moment in your career? In 1997 my career really took off: in a short time I was able to work for the French and Japanese Vogue, i-D and Wallpaper. From 1999 until 2004 I mainly worked in New York and Paris. The most recent major international magazine I worked for is the American edition of Marie Claire.

You’re also a mother. How do you combine your busy life and travel with raising your child? Until 2011 my mother-in-law was 100% available tot babysit her only granddaughter every time I had to travel. Sadly, she passed away and now my husband and I have to fend for ourselves. Thankfully, childcare is available and we have plenty of friends and good neighbours. I don’t travel as much and not as long as I used to, so actually it’s working out fine.

How do you keep yourself balanced? I eat very well, but healthy. I’m a real foodie. I’ve also been doing sports 2 to 4 times a week for all my life to stay in shape and stay happy.

What do you like most about your job? Like I said: my work is my calling. Everything I photograph has my full attention and commitment. By now I have the freedom to only take on the projects that inspire me and make me be the best I can be.

Do you have any short-time goals?I’d like to publish a sequel to my first book: “Wendelien Daan : Tales : 1998-2004”.



"The Marolles. I was born on the Place du Jeu de Balle!” cries the –by now fully and beautifully grown- electro-native Joy Adegoke (32) with great enthusiasm when I ask her which places she misses in her hometown. She left Brussels for Berlin with her 'Joy Wellboy' band mate and boyfriend Wim Janssens a while ago when infamous DJ and record label owner Ellen Allien wanted to release their debut "Yorokobi's Mantra’. Since then, they've scored a big hit on 'Radio Eins' (Radio One) and toured the world. A nice career sequel for the voice you might recognize from several Buscemi songs.

Joy Wellboy's debut album "Yorokobi's Mantra" was released a few months ago. What's the best reaction you've received so far? "A fan once sent us a screenshot of our video for "Lay Down Your Blade” with stats of a 100 views by him alone on a single day. We've also had a fan who insisted on giving us a packet of freshly ground coffee after a show. He told us that same song had saved his relationship."

On "The Movement Song' you sound like someone filling the gap between a younger Erykah Badu and Roisin Murphy. Does that sound fair to you?" I’m a total fan of Roisin. I love her attitude, her charisma, the way she moves. Her lyrics always have lots of mysterious hidden messages. She conjures up such beautiful imagery. Maybe we both hail from the same planet? We share a habit of changing our timbre according to the song we’re singing. She’s had a positive influence on me and she’s given me strength, that’s for sure. Especially when times were hard, I found solace in her words. She’s got an unbelievable amount of willpower."

You’re in a band with your boyfriend. Do you have a specific ritual before you go on stage? Do you have to give him some space? What do you do an hour before the show?"We spend the last hour before the show together. Each of us deals with the gig in our own way. We try to get into the right mood for the show and take our time to warm up, to get dressed… To look into each other’s eyes. And then it’s GO TIME! (laughs)"

Tell me something about Wim most people don’t know yet."He can swim underwater for two whole lengths!” 

Who are your female musical heroes?  "Joni Mitchell, Joan as Policewoman, Grace Jones, Anita O’Day, Goldfrapp, Courtney Love, Jeanne Lee, Kelis, Björk, Roisin Murphy, Peaches… I’ve got plenty more!"

To be a great artist you need to be in great shape: touring, performing, travelling, staying focused for interviews, staying inspired to write new music. How do you maintain your physical and mental health? "We go running a lot. If it’s possible, we run for an hour every other day. We to try to cook as much as we can. And as healthy as we can. We also drink a lot of tea. Other than that, we try to get our creative juices flowing by absorbing and ventilating a lot: reading, drawing, looking, listening, writing… We don’t hold anything back. On the other hand, we also like silence. Everything starts with silence. "

You've got a very distinct personal style. How would you describe it?"I'm drawn to the 80's, but my style changes from day to day. Everything has to fit my mood. I love gold! Right now I'm into wearing light blue and oversized T-shirts. I always try to add a playful touch to keep it balanced. I like customizing my clothes with smiley faces, hearts, things I find at yard sales. My hair-accessories are very important. Sometimes, when I'm not wearing the right bow in my hair, it can really get me down. My hair is an extension of my vibe. ”

Who are your style icons? "These days I'm fascinated with Tilda Swinton and the young Jane Birkin. I also love Franzius, a fantastic lady from Berlin who does my performance outfits. She also styled our new video for "Birds”.”

Being a resident of Berlin, name 3 places you have to see when you’re on a city trip."Tempelhof to go rollerblading, Liepnitzsee is straight out of a fairy tale and Hamburger Bahnhof because the building itself is gorgeous."

"Buy me Flowers” is one of my favourite songs on the album. When’s the last time you got some flowers"Uh oh… Wim hasn’t surprised me with flowers yet. But last weekend I did buy three dark red roses for myself. No reason needed! ”


In addition to offering an online spotlight, in 2015 Xandres is inviting strong women to use its platform to show their creativity. After the success of the Xandres collaboration with Lore Van Keer, Sabine Van Acker, creator of the brand "La Femme Garniture", was invited to design a unique blanket called "Sabine Van Acker for Xandres". The career of this 50-year-old accessories designer is an inspiration because it shows, once again, that being able to follow your heart definitely has nothing to do with age.

After 25 years of good and loyal service as a graphic designer, in 2011 you decided to become an independent accessories designer. Why this career-change?The idea had been nagging at me for years, but I didn’t dare take the step because I’d seen how difficult it can be to be an independent designer. In the 1950s and 60s, my father designed shoes for national and international footwear manufacturers. He was also a pretty good drawing artist and photographer. When the Belgian footwear industry went down, my family went through some hard times, which I experienced very consciously. But I always had that need to create within me. I probably inherited it from my father. Outside of work hours, I designed handbags and the reactions were very positive. First, my friends ordered them, then my friends’ friends … you know how it goes. I tried to combine the two activities by taking on the status of “self-employed as a secondary occupation”, but it was just impossible. So after 25 years of working at the same printer, I left my job as a graphic artist to dedicate myself entirely to my brand: "La Femme Garniture".

How did you move from handbags to knits?Each piece in my handbag collection was one-of-a-kind, entirely made by hand. For me, my creations should be high quality, but at an affordable price – hence the search for the right materials. My husband works in the fabric trade. Through his contacts we were able to discover a knitting machine, and we met a technician who had been working with and maintaining this type of machinery since he’d been little. My own strength is in combining colours and patterns, my husband knows his fabrics and yarns and my ‘knitter’ knows what we can do when it comes to combining threads and stitches. We compliment each other very well, which enabled me to start designing fabrics myself and focus on knitwear.

Your scarves and bedspreads have been very successful. Xandres has now entrusted you with creating a blanket under the name "Sabine Van Acker for Xandres".Xandres is a solid player in Belgium and I followed its collaboration with Lore Van Keer very closely. When marketing manager Nienke Lambert contacted me, I didn’t hesitate for one second! She asked me to create a slightly lighter blanket that could double as a cape, scarf, even poncho. The concept had to be ready in only a few weeks, in order to be included in the winter photo campaign.

What do you hope to get out of this collaboration?I hope to gain a greater visibility, of course, but also and above all to learn as much as I can from this one-of-a-kind collaboration with a big company.

You were also selected for the "De Invasie" creativity platform. Tell us about it.I owe a lot to founders Bert Pieters and Yves Drieghe. My friends suggested several times to me that I apply, but I felt my products were still too imperfect. For me, a product has to be perfectly finished to participate in "De Invasie”. Then when I applied, I was immediately selected. Thanks to this platform, my designs are selling all the way to Japan. During “De Invasie van Amsterdam”, a woman bought a scarf from me for her sister who has a gallery and a hotel in Kyoto. A few months later, I received my first order. The German “Monoqi” found me during “De Invasie van Kortrijk”. In short, the platform works and truly launched me. I clearly remember the moment I found out I had been selected. My husband immediately popped open the champagne. And since he doesn’t drink champagne, I finished off the entire bottle myself. It was a memorable day! (Laughs).

What is your biggest challenge today?Should I grow my small business or not? Enlarge my collection or not? Those are the big questions I am facing. You know, I would have liked to become self-employed in my forties, but I fell very ill. I’m not the kind of career woman who expects everything and everyone to adjust to my needs. Following the advice of people whom I hold in high regard, I’d like to avoid turning ‘La Femme Garniture’ into a big company. I want to have control and keep some flexibility. That’s why you can only find my collections at merchants who are on the same wavelength as I am. I do know I don’t intend to stop at knits. I would like to continue my handbag line and also move into interior design.

You spoke earlier about your parents, who didn’t have an easy life. What do they think of your success?Unfortunately, my father has passed on. My mother is very proud of me, but also, understandably, a bit worried. She recently told me: “Sabine, what you have achieved is truly great!”

You have taken a big risk at a somewhat advanced age for it, and your children have been there to experience it from up close. What lesson would you like them to take away from this?My husband and I have a 19-year-old daughter and a 13-year old-son. We encourage them to live their passions. My daughter, who’s a model in the ‘La Femme Garniture’ photo shoots, is also my sounding board. Her youthful outlook tends to broaden my vision. My children are well aware of the road my husband and I have travelled. They are very understanding and supporting, which feels wonderful.


"De Madammen" - Radio 2

Cathérine Vandoorne is one of “De Madammen” (or: “The Ladies”), the popular Radio 2 show, but she’s also an inspiration to us, because we can proudly call her once of the faces of Xandres xline. She’s a famous voice and a famous face, but she’s also a real talent, working as a radio producer specialised in culinary content. We talked to Cathérine about challenges, hidden talents, kids and the luxury of taking a two-hour bath.

Cooking on the radio. How does that work?"Yes, well it’s not easy. We start from the content: what do want to tell the audience? Then we think about which person could add to the story, whether we would need a report to go with it. I make sure all of that happens. And because it’s the role I’ve assigned myself, the culinary aspect has become a bit of a passion, too. In the beginning I was barely able to cook spaghetti.”

You seem like a person that doesn’t shy away from challenges. Didn’t you once start doing sports radio without knowing the first thing about football?"True. But you have to know these things are a gradual process. You kind of stumble into it. It’s true, though: I can find something interesting in just about anything.”

Have you always had that hunger for information? Were you curious as a kid?"If I can believe my parents’ stories I was a very verbal kid who liked to experiment. Maybe a bit cocky, even. I’ve had theatre and elocution lessons. I was going to be a great actress when I grew up.

And the dream of acting?"It’s gone, now. But I did play some amateur theatre for a while. I love being someone else, exposing another side to yourself. For some reason, I’m always cast in comedy roles, but I’m a sucker for drama, really. I can cry on commando, too. If I had to, I could be crying in front of you in two minutes.

Did motherhood change you?"Absolutely. I became a mum later in life. When I was 41. Before that I was working constantly. Now I’ve got something to come home to. I’m able to see things in perspective more.

Imagine you’ve been given the weekend off. (Your little girl is being taken care of.) What ingredients does that weekend need to have for you?"First of all: water. I like taking a long bath. Two hours, at least. Then I’d like to go shopping for ingredients for a good cooking session. A Thai curry dish or an oven recipe. Something with chicory and pheasant… Oh, and if the weather’s nice I would definitely do some gardening. I love it! Raking and planting away in the yard, that’s the only thing that can take my mind off the rest of the world.”

Let’s talk about Xandres xline. How did that collaboration come about?"When we needed to record a TV-commercial for "De Madammen”, the stylist asked me where I bought my clothes. Shopping is not easy for me, because my size isn’t a standard option. I told her I liked what Xandres had to offer and now we are working together!”

Can you describe your style for us?"My closet used to be a dark cloud. I thought to myself: ‘Black is best for slimming, right?’ But thanks to my collaboration with Xandres xline I’ve started wearing bright colours, too. I can truly feel myself coming to life.”

Last question: what are your wishes for 2014?"That I can be just as happy as in 2013. I don’t think I can be happier than I am now. I’ve truly had an amazing year. I’m married to a wonderful man; I’ve got a great kid, a fantastic job. I’m really happy and I try to protect that happiness.”


Captain of the Belgian Women's Hockey Team

As Captain of the Belgian Women’s Hockey Team, Charlotte De Vos (29) is enjoying the current boom of her beloved sport. The –very technical, she likes to stress - game in which girls use nothing but a stick, a ball and their strong and swift bodies to defeat their opponent, while still looking very feminine with their bouncing pony tails and short skirts. But how do you combine being an Olympian athlete, a leader (she guided her team to the 11th place in 2012), and a business owner? We tried to find out.

How long have you been captain of the Red Panthers? Since 2010, but I started playing hockey at the age of five.

How proud are you of that title? Very. Especially since we’re gaining such momentum. When I was chosen as a captain, it was a natural process: I was getting a bit older and I had the experience. I really wanted to help bring the team to a new level. I felt I was ready to do that. You have to be aware of the pressure that comes along with the title, though. There are no breaks. I always have to be there for the team, for better or worse. I also run my own business, so sometimes I arrive at the training and I’m tired before we’ve even started. I’m there 100%. If I ever feel like it’s becoming less, I’ll be the first to raise a flag.

So you’re combining a spot on the ‘Oranje Zwart’ team (Holland) and the Red Panthers team (Belgium) with a demanding job? What kind of work do you do? My brother and I have been running our own IT company, De Vos Systems, for four years now. We sell a software package for sports clubs called ONLI. It makes it easier for sports clubs to organise their administration, communication and finances.

I’ll keep going until the World Championship in Den Haag in 2014

Do you still have a personal life? A family life? How do you maintain your balance? It's difficult sometimes. {laughs}I divide my time into segments. There are segments dedicated completely to sports or work or family. But there are also segments that I put aside for myself. There is so much I want to learn, so much I want to get better at. Whenever I feel I’m left with too little time for those things, I do something about it. It’s a conscious choice. To be honest, I’m prone to extremes. On the one hand, I want to go all out for hockey, because if you’re not giving yourself 100% you’re not at your best and that’s no fun. On the other hand, I’m well aware that you can outrun yourself. If I would only focus on my job and my sports, I don’t think I could be happy. I’ve done that for some periods of my life and you can’t keep that up. That’s when you hit a wall.

Do you have to mind what you eat? Being a hockey player means we can’t allow our bodily fat percentage to become too high. But it’s not the kind of sport that requires a zero fat percentage, like athletics. It’s a contact sport and you need your fat to avoid injuries. I like eating healthy, anyway. I’m interested in anything that has to do with a healthy lifestyle: cooking, yoga, relaxation techniques…

What are your other interests? What do you like to do? Other sports. I like golf. I’d like to learn how to kite surf or go sailing. A good friend of mine organises kite surf weekends and I’ve been invited so many times but I just can’t go yet. The risks are too high. But it’s something I’m definitely planning to take up after hockey. Travel, discovering cities, visiting exhibitions… those are some of the things I haven’t been doing enough.

Is there any truth in the rumours that Usain Bolt asked your phone number at the Olympics and you won’t confirm or deny any calls between you two? No, that’s completely untrue. Jamaica was close to Belgium at the Olympic opening ceremony. Sprinter Asafa Powell walked past and we asked for a photo. Then we jokingly asked him to bring over Usain, thinking it would never happen. {laughs} But Asafa strolled over to Usain, who was about 20 feet away, brought him over and we took a photo together. Then we went on with the ceremony. End of story.

You mentioned getting older. I see you sitting here in front of me and I’m thinking: “She can take on another ten years at the highest level, at least!” {laughs loudly} Last year, when the Olympics were over, I felt older for the first time. It’s really confronting. I was injured, too. It takes a lot of extra energy to come back from an injury. I take things one tournament at a time. I’ve said I’ll keep going until the World Championship in Den Haag in 2014. We’ll see how it goes.

What do you think will happen at the World Championship? We’ve played the 3 of the biggest teams in the world this summer at the European Championship: Germany, England and the Netherlands. The World Championship won’t be a lot tougher than that.

Do you set yourself any goals as a team? Always. And we’re very clear about it, too. It’s really important to be working towards the same goals as a team. We haven’t set our goals for the World Championship, though. Personally, I’d like to be in the top 6. I think we’re ready. Fingers crossed!


MoMu librarian

Happy Birthday Dear Academie” is the cheerful title of the yearlong celebration of 350 years of Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp and of 50 years of the prestigious Antwerp Fashion Department - you know, that school that gave us the world’s most respected fashion designers like the Antwerp Six. MoMu Librarian and insider Birgit Ansoms (36) talks to us about her path towards her dream job and the exhibition she has been mentally preparing for for over a decade …

Your job might not be very 'high profile' but you are an important figure within the walls of the Antwerp Fashion Academy ...I don't know about ‘important'. I mostly work behind the scenes. That's why you won't find much when you google me. (laughs) I'm a qualified paper and book conservator. I studied here in Antwerp and I've always been interested in fashion, really. That's why I studied stage costume design for two years. When a vacancy came along as a library assistant whose core tasks included archiving Belgian fashion, I jumped at the chance. My job here combines everything I've always been interested in. I help people with their research and I try to direct them towards the right source material.

My job here combines everything I've always been interested in!

The exhibition "Happy Birthday Dear Academie - 50 Years Antwerp Fashion Department " has started. What can we expect ? Downstairs in the building you will see a timeline of 50 years of Fashion Academy. It starts off with black and white images from the 60's and then you can clearly witness the evolution towards the present day, in which the academy has become more international and more widely known. Nowadays the students not only come in from all four corners of planet; they also spread out to work with many of the biggest houses in the world. That's kind of the evolution we would like to show. And then there's the exhibition itself - I'm not giving away everything, people should definitely come out and discover it all for themselves - but I will say we worked intensively with the current team of teachers - including Walter Van Beirendonck, Dirk Van Saene, Hilde Frunt.... We've had meetings at regular intervals during an entire year, and everyone has chosen what they thought to be the most inspiring pieces for him or her throughout the entire period.

A daunting task because we are talking about student work, so most people haven't held on to it. In the early days of the Academy, there used to be a big sale after the final fashion show each year, so many of these pieces were very difficult to track down. Of course that also made it very interesting. We‘ve been in the same building for 11 years, teachers and museum, but we never actually collaborated very closely. This was the first time.

What's your favourite part of the exhibition ?There's going to be a big wall with the best graphic work of the students. Yvonne Dekock, the graphics teacher, has worked so intensively on finding great pieces, bringing them in and making a selection… It's going to be a ‘Wow!' experience. The featured pieces will include work by students like Patrick Van Ommeslaeghe (who later went on to work at Gaultier, Balenciaga, Jil Sander, etc.) and Wim Neels. It's really incredible to see how good their drawings are. Tim Van Steenbergen also kept everything from the early years up until now and he brought everything over for the exhibit. We've also been able to select from all the sketchbooks.

Are there any ex-students whose designs you like to wear yourself?Actually, I still buy a lot of Stephan Schneider. Ever since the beginning, I've found his clothing to be very comfortable, but it also has that little extra touch to it. You know, here in the library, I am constantly running about, so I have to think about comfort levels, too.

Let 's talk about the 2013 Graduation show. Whose work spoke to you the most?That's a tough one. I'm just a librarian, you know. I'm not an expert.But Minju Kim did some really intense research in our library.It was exciting to watch the show and think: ‘Well, she asked for this and that and maybe she used that technique there…' I could be wrong, of course. But it's nice to notice and it also makes me kind of happy.


Leading Lady of Hooverphonic

For their new album, ‘Reflection’, Hooverphonic has once again reinvented themselves. Alex Callier, Raymond Geerts and Noémie Wolfs had asked their fans to welcome the band into their homes to record their album. The entire band, accompanied by its recording crew, ended up staying at the homes of five fans (in a classy mansion, a loft, etc.) for one week at a time. They lived there together. They recorded there together. The result is a new, more natural sound for the second album they’ve recorded with leading lady Noémie, who now also has two song credits to her name.

“Those first weeks with Hooverphonic were not good for my physical and mental health, really. Three weeks prior to our first two gigs at the AB in Brussels I had already lost my appetite for food. A year ago, when we were playing the ‘Sportpaleis’ venue in Antwerp, it happened again. I recently went to see Jay-Z at that very same venue and a friend of mine asked me what it felt like when I was on that stage. The answer was that I honestly didn’t remember. I waltzed through that performance in a haze of temporary insanity. I spoke French on stage. And I don’t even speak French.” (laughs)

Aren’t there any recordings of the performance you can watch? “Probably. But I won’t look for them. I don’t like looking at myself. It’s still too confronting for me. Hearing myself on the radio is fine. But adding moving imagery to it is too much. When we’re having a screening for a new video, I don’t dare to watch. At moments like these, I’m a typically insecure woman, although it’s getting better these days.

Well, allow me to compliment you on the new record, then. It sounds quite different from the previous one. “Thanks! I think we always want to reinvent ourselves. The artists I tend to like also seem to do that.”

I think we always want to reinvent ourselves. The artists I tend to like also seem to do that.

In the arrangements… “Exactly. It shows you how little attention people pay to the lyrics anymore. Without giving away too much: it’s true that many of the lyrics are emotional or negative and there’s a lot about break-ups. But what I like so much about Raymond and Alex is that they try to counter that. A song like “Devil Kind Of Girl”, about a girl that’s “too hard to handle”, is wrapped in an arrangement so happy and frivolous, people tend to forget what the song is about. 

You co-wrote some songs, too. Which ones? “I collaborated on “Copper” and “Roadblock”. Alex and Raymond gave me some software to compose at home. In the beginning I found it hard to show my ideas to Alex. They just seemed silly to me. But he immediately started producing, working with samples and plug-ins. He knew exactly where I was going with it and then added something of his own. And when you hear that song now, with those backing vocals and how it has transformed… I know it’s a bit lame to say this, but those two songs are closest to my heart.

To be an artist, and to be able to perform at a certain level, is not unlike being a top athlete. Have you been able to find your own rhythm yet? “I’m still searching. Alex and Raymond had warned me about this from the very beginning. You can be very busy one year and then do almost nothing for two years. My friends tell me they wouldn’t want to trade places with me. It’s almost impossible to plan anything. I tried freeing up the day of my sister’s wedding a year in advance, but I failed because we ended up performing that day. It’s one of the downsides of being a musician, but it’s more than balanced out by the other stuff.

A few years ago, you were known as ‘the singer who always wears stripes’. Did you get fed up with that, sometimes? “No, I thought it was funny. There was even a Facebook page: “Noémie Wolfs only wears stripes.” I even liked it, too. After a while it became more of a statement, it almost started having an iconic effect. Stripes are really easy, too. When I go shopping with my mom it’s always like: “Mom, what do you think of this dress?” And then she’s like: “Yes Noémie. Stripes. Again.” (laughs) I think it’s cool our stylist Amke Rijkenbarg tries to find a theme in all of it. When I see my stage outfits of the past three years hanging on a single rack, I’ve got a real mini-collection going.


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