Brussels-based womenswear designer Annemie Verbeke invited us into her cosy Ixelles atelier to talk about her involvement in Adeline d’Ursel and Alexandre Moens’ Nationa(a)l Pop Up Store, a temporary concept event soon to take place in Brussels’ Châtelain neighbourhood. The former La Cambre teacher was tasked with choosing three graduates of the prestigious fashion academy whose work will be showcased (and, hopefully, sold) at the event, an initiative she welcomes as a good move for encouraging collaboration.
The Nationa(a)l Pop Up Store – what seduced you?
I think it’s great to have a temporary event where you can find various creative fields in one single location. Nationa(a)l Pop Up Store not only deals with fashion and design, but also with music, cinema and publishing. It’s clever and exciting as a concept. In fact, such gatherings have taken place in history before and I believe in their strength and the ways they contribute to culture as a whole.
The Wiener Werkstätte, for instance. For almost 30 years, architecture, art, design and fashion were in symbiosis. Why not imagine something like that in Brussels now? It’s a fantastic opportunity, whereby different artistic forms operate with the same philosophy. Obviously, I’m not trying to compare this particular project to the one that took place in Vienna 100 years ago, but we can definitely learn from such creative waves. I’m thinking about Bauhaus, too, or even Surrealism, during which Coco Chanel and Jean Cocteau worked together.
Do you think this collaborative dimension is missing here?
Definitely. People are overwhelmed by their jobs and don’t really have the time to get together and discuss ideas. The pace is manic for most of us, and so such events are nonexistent in Brussels. I’d love it for a fashion designer to meet a musician and for them to develop a project together.
Have you ever been involved in such collaborations yourself?
The Dardenne brothers once collaborated with me on one of their films, where I dressed some of the actors. Still, such initiatives do not come by very often.
Tell me about the selection process for the Nationa(al) Pop Up Store.
There were two aspects for me: the first was to make a selection of my own pieces from the current winter collection. The second was to focus on young designers, whose work was inspiring enough to be showcased.
What were the selection criteria?
They all had to be graduates of La Cambre Mode[s] with a distinct personality and strong technical skills.
It was quite simple for me. Having been at La Cambre and survived the teaching after 5 years, they had what it takes to be a part of the event.
Is the teaching that tough there?
Yes, it is. It’s hard and demanding. I taught there for more than 10 years and I know students suffer. They really do. They can only be good if they make it in the end! I couldn’t judge someone’s work looking at only three pieces. I’m a direct, straightforward person and this was my perspective for this project.
La Cambre Mode[s] is the best fashion school in Brussels. There’s no doubt about it.
How important is La Cambre Mode[s]?
La Cambre Mode[s] is the best fashion school in Brussels. There’s no doubt about it. Of course, there’s the Academy in Antwerp, which is very good as well. Still, in Brussels, La Cambre has the highest level. The teaching does differ from school to school, though. In Antwerp, sketches are important, whereas La Cambre favours experiments with fabrics.
The 3 designers you selected are women. Was that intentional?
Actually, it was pure coincidence. I may be a feminist at heart, but I didn’t treat anybody’s dossier differently if they were female.
Did the clothes have to be made in Belgium, too?
No, not at all.
Can you tell me why there are fewer female designers in fashion compared to men?
That’s a good question and one I often think about. Despite the progress we have made in Western society, women are still confronted with difficult choices that men never have to deal with. Having a family and a career, renouncing certain positions or getting paid less than men is still something women experience in their life. In fashion, there are a lot of men involved who tend to hold power positions and support each other. This may be the reason why there are fewer places for women. Don’t forget male egos, either.