Behind every successful designer, lies a great producer. Marc Gysemans, who collaborated with industry darling Raf Simons for more than a decade, doesn’t find defining his role an easy task.
“I don’t think the words “producer” or “manufacturer” encapsulate what I do. I see myself as the person turning someone’s talent into a commercial reality,” explains Gysemans who – despite his affable manner and slender frame – doesn’t mince his words. “You cannot do anything without a vision. My company – Gysemans Clothing Group – handles production, shipping and distribution for fashion brands. I’ve been in this business long enough to know what designers are like. They will manipulate anyone to get what they want. They will use you as a stepping stone and forget about you the next day. It’s fashion amnesia.”
In an industry full of pretence and illusion, Gysemans’ frankness stands out. Passionate about his job, he has seen a tangible change since 2008, when the recession kicked in and affected the fashion business, “You don’t see as much creativity now as you did five of six years ago, but you also have to be able to afford being creative as a designer. Fashion has become increasingly commercialised and industrial. We are going through a transitional phase and the world is still going to change. Shops don’t take risks any more, because they don’t sell conceptual collections.”
Gysemans’ relationship with Simons is the stuff of legends. Whenever he talks about the Belgian designer – who recently was appointed artistic director for Haute Couture, womenswear and accessories at Dior – one senses Gysemans’ respect and admiration for the man “I’m sure Raf will do a great job at Dior. He will bring a welcome edge to the label and deliver inspiring shows. That’s always been one of his key strengths.”
‘The important thing about designers is that they’re emotionally attached to what they create. I appreciate this, but one should never forget it’s a business after all. Clothes need to sell.’
The majority of brands Gysemans works with are not Belgian. His factories are located in Europe, but he stopped producing locally. Last season, he collaborated with Belgian designer Anthony Vaccarello – who got plenty of press with his skin-tight dresses and sexy cuts – but the fit was not right. Recently, he took on Brussels-based Jean-Paul Knott, handling his manufacturing and distribution, as well as international sales. “Working with designers is complicated and there’s always an element of risk with someone new. You have to find some kind of ideal compromise between the artistic part and the commercial side. Designers come to me to make me a partner. I offer different packages and they can choose what suits them. The important thing about designers is that they’re emotionally attached to what they create. I appreciate this, but one should never forget it’s a business after all. Clothes need to sell.”
Sitting in Gysemans’ office in Rotselaar it becomes clear what pleasurable company he can be. He’s witty, humble and has strong opinions. Gysemans is engaging, too, which means you are easily drawn to him. Despite having been in this business for years, his enthusiasm seems intact and there’s nothing remotely jaded about him. Strangely enough, Gysemans was not into fashion as a teenager, even though he didn’t like anyone dictating his sartorial choices “Fashion was not my thing, to be honest. I liked clothes though and was quite specific about what I wore. I was the hippie type then and my mother tried to tell me what to wear. Needless to say, it never worked. I was obsessed with jeans when I was 15, wearing denim head-to-toe. And I did my own shopping, too. There’s no way I would have let her do that for me.”gysemansclothinggroup.com