Belgian designers: seizing the moment
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Join Date: Jun 2002
glad you guys enjoyed reading this article..
here is part three, credited as before
Belgian designers have long invested their profits and energies in aspects of the business invisible to the media: supporting their retail clients.
That means everything from ensuring good finishing and complete deliveries to feeding buyers well in the showroom. Van Noten's chef, for example, travels with the collection to Milan and New York to whip up healthy meals for those writing orders.
But several smaller designer firms have downsized recently, finding it too risky to carry a huge design staff. They're also recognizing they can't be rigidly conceptual but need to put the focus back on product to better service retail clients and compete in a crowded market.
, for example, had at one point employed 15 people at his eponymous men's wear label. Recently, he switched to an arrangement in which he operates a small "creative office" that controls his name and design, with all other functions handled by various distribution and production partners.
"I do zero investment in my own brand, so I don't carry the risk but I do control my image," Simons said in an interview, noting, however, that he recently expanded his creative staff in Antwerp now that he also does double duty as creative director of Jil Sander in Milan.
"Keeping your own independence has to be linked with more commerciality,"
Simons stressed. "At a certain point, you have to deal with fashion and its economic laws. I'm working in a more product-oriented way now. In the first years, I was very conceptual."
Simons and Branquinho both recently added a second label, but neither characterized it as a marketing ploy or equated it with the brand segmentation employed by American and Italian designers. Simons said Raf by Raf Simons allows him to continue addressing the young customers he's always attracted, while exploring more grown-up looks in his main collection, which doubled its sales for fall-winter 2006.
said her new
line was a way to maintain timeless and essential items like trenchcoats and blazers as part of her universe. But she shows and sells Complice along with her men's collection, allowing her to deliver some women's styles earlier.
also readies its collection in tandem with the men's calendar, in January and July, which has boosted business. Last season, the company had 35 percent of orders in hand at the moment of its fashion show in Paris.
"This season we tripled our business in America,"
said Filip Arickx, who now runs the business, leaving his wife, An Vandevorst, to concentrate fully on design. "France is doing very well again, too."
AF Vandevorst also streamlined its staffing and production, for example, concentrating the manufacture of all woven designs in one factory instead of 15, as it had previously.
Loppa acknowledged that tough times in fashion have prompted many young Belgian designers to go work behind the scenes at large brands in France and Italy. But she pointed to promising independents like
Kris Van Assche, Peter Pilotto, Bernhard Willhelm and Bruno Pieters as a reason to be optimistic
"That's the strength of Belgian designers. They want to be in charge," Loppa said. To wit: Her school will turn out 18 fashion graduates this year, with one in five likely to launch a label.
"They're great designers. They're very professional and a few are extremely good," said Loppa. "I don't have to worry for the future."
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