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.