Roos Vandekerckhove and the power of colour

There’s something uplifting about a bright red jumper on a cold winter’s day, and knitwear designer Roos Vandekerckhove totally gets it. She launched her first womenswear collection last September to the tune of great feedback from both buyers and press. Her clothes are upbeat, young and carefree and she herself is as warm in person as a woolly Christmas jumper. We sat down with her to discuss handicraft, holidays in Morocco and her own personal style.

I love what you’re wearing today. It’s refreshing to see someone go for colour.

I couldn’t imagine my life without it, to be honest. Colour is all about self-expression. It affects your mood and your feelings. It creates vibrations around us, I really believe in this. That’s the reason why I’m drawn to Africa, especially Morocco.

Do you travel there often?

I try to go every year. I’m inspired by the local artisans and how they dye their fabrics. There are shades you don’t see anywhere else, so vibrant and strong. Marrakesh is one of my favourite places in the world.

How did you get into fashion?

I studied Graphic Design at Sint-Lucas in Ghent and realised I loved shapes and colours, but graphic design was not tactile enough. I was missing the 2D element. When I was a child, I used to make bracelets all the time, mixing different threads. I did some courses with Christophe Coppens and learnt more about weaving.

Your collection focuses on knitwear. Any specific reason?

My grandmother used to knit every day and it’s so familiar for me. In a way, it’s almost intimate. Knitwear allows you to be more spontaneous. It lives and breathes. Knitting is about movement. I like to experiment with my designs, combining textures and contrasting tones.

You’ve introduced bright leather bags. How do you approach this material?

Leather is quite structured. It’s not as supple as knitwear and perhaps more difficult to work with. I wanted very simple shapes, but used some of the colour codes I had in my main collection. It felt natural for me to do leather bags, as they are soft to the touch. I’m developing shoes for next winter as well, working on possible knit and leather combinations.

There’s an optimistic vibe in your work. Does it reflect who you are as a person?

I hope so. I don’t think you can create something inspiring if you don’t feel good about yourself.

Your work reminds me of Sonia Rykiel when she started out in the 70s. Are you inspired by her work?

Rykiel brought a joyous energy to fashion. I’d even say there’s something naive and childish about what I do, a bit like a kid randomly using paint or felt-tip pens. I was talking to my sister the other day who told me that kids rarely draw with black pens, they are always attracted by the coloured ones.

Is black taboo for you?

No, it’s not, and I often use it. Black is great to enhance colour, it balances everything out.

I love pistachio green, bright red, indigo blue and fuchsia pink.

What are your favourite colours?

I love pistachio green, bright red, indigo blue and fuchsia pink.

There’s something very graphic about your clothes.

Yes, but I think there’s a serene element, too. My clothes are not aggressive.

How did the buyers react to them?

I was happy when we got more than 30 orders, which is pretty good for a first season. I didn’t really plan to have an entire collection to sell. I started with scarves last season and thought it’d be nice to add a knitwear dress. Then the dress led to tops and skirts. The collection just kept on evolving in an organic way.

Do you sell your clothes in the showroom, too?

No, I don’t deal with that aspect. I focus on design and creating new clothes. I think it’s very difficult for a designer to sell directly what they do. You need someone with an external eye and business acumen.

Where do you produce your clothes?

Some are made in Belgium and others are produced elsewhere in Europe. I’m not interested in going to Asia, though, and want to keep my manufacturing in Europe. Otherwise the production gets harder to manage.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been busy designing Autumn/Winter 13. My main inspiration is Russia this time and there’s still plenty to do before the end of the year.

You can’t stop fashion, can you?

True, but I love it all the same.