Illustrator Valentine De Cort teams up with Belgian fashion giant Delvaux

This autumn, Belgian leathergoods house Delvaux are relaunching Le Madame, a revamped version of its iconic Le Maronnier bag from 1977. To mark the occasion, the prestigious fashion label have teamed up with Brussels-based illustrator Valentine De Cort to create a beautiful little picture book telling the story of Madame Delvaux, for which the young artist had to dress up the story’s very fashionable leading lady. We wanted to know how she got on.

Is this your very first foray into fashion? 

It was the first time I did something for a fashion brand. It’s very different from my usual work. I generally have many private clients. Their ideas are normally less elaborated and I’m a bit freer in what I do.

What made you take Delvaux up on their offer?

It’s such a prestigious Belgian company with a long history and a rich tradition. It was really an honour when they asked me. They gave me the chance to write a whole story, that was really great. Plus, they also used some of my drawings for scarves and window decorations. It’s nice to see your art on physical objects.

Did you work closely together?

Delvaux wanted to do something different, but at the same time bring the 1977 bag back to life by doing more than just a simple packshot. It’s a classic bag with a high quality finishing, a bag that is just as good on the inside as on the outside. I got a simple brief and took it from there. We always worked closely together and had a lot of meetings. It all worked out very well and we might collaborate again for another product.

How was it different from working with private clients?

What was really complicated was the look of the girl, the main character. She couldn’t be too thin but also not too big and I really wasn’t sure how to dress her. At the beginning she wasn’t fashionable enough, so I had to make changes, but she also had to wear something that’s not from this season, to look a bit timeless. Delvaux made me change the collar, for example, and many other little things like that. This is the difference when you work for a fashion label! And what was new for me too was that this time I not only had to do illustrations but also had to come up with the text. I’ve illustrated quite a few children books before, but I never had to write. I enjoyed it a lot. Two days after I got the brief I already had my first draft ready.

Where did you look for inspiration? 

It all happened really fast, everything came out at once, somehow. But of course we still had to make lots of changes afterwards, and all the fine-tuning. One inspiration was a book from the 70s that I really love: Eloise à Paris. It’s wonderful. The drawings are characterised by thin lines with little colour, a bit like the very first fashion illustrations.

How would you describe your style?

It’s hard to talk about your own work…I think it’s quite playful, fresh, colourful and dynamic. It’s also rather light-hearted, not too deep. I didn’t change my style for this project, I did what I always do. And I want to do something that makes people smile. That makes me happy!

Which other illustrators do you like?

I really love – and admire – the work of Quentin Blake and Sempé.

How did you get into illustrating? Did you go to art school?

I’m not a trained illustrator. It was all learning by doing, basically. And it all started with the invitations I did for my sister’s wedding. They got people’s attention: I got my first commissions and after they just kept calling. Originally, I studied drawing and painting at La Cambre, but that had nothing to do with illustration.

What’s next for you?

I’ve only been working as an illustrator for three years now, so I’m hoping for many more projects. And I want to further develop and improve my style.