Brussels-based fashion designer Eric Beauduin creates beautiful, functional and timeless bags made out of vintage (and sadly forgotten) leather garments. If the sustainability of his collection is one of its main features, it also offers an individual and exclusive take on luxury, each bag being one-offs. It is no surprise, then, that global style meccas – such as L’Ėclaireur in Paris and Haleluja in Brussels – are amongst his most faithful clients. We catch up with the Belgian designer in the city of lights during the opening night of Showroom Belgium.
What made you want to focus on bags?
I guess it was a combination of different factors. I had my own clothing line before and started designing shoes. I ended up freelancing at Delvaux for a while and realised I loved making bags. I’ve always been into sartorial details, such as pockets, finishings, buttons and fastenings. I guess my bag line grew organically.
What’s your educational background?
I studied at la Cambre and graduated from there. I was born in Rixensart and moved to Brussels, which was the logical thing to do.
When did you launch your own label?
I launched my brand in 2000 when I was in my 30s.
How old are you now?
How do you feel has people’s behaviour changed towards sustainable designer brands?
People’s perceptions are quite different now. I guess sustainable fashion is not as “weird” as it used to be. First and foremost, I see myself as a craftsman. I like the idea of “slow fashion”, which is rather political in a way. I guess I’m a bit of a lefty boho-type. It’s about having a certain lifestyle, too.
What are the advantages of working in Belgium?
Having my atelier in Brussels gives me a sense of freedom and flexibility. If someone orders some styles now, I’ll be able to ship them before Christmas. I could forget about that if I had to work with foreign manufacturers. I have my own production here and wouldn’t want it any other way. It’s just faster, I guess, even though there are always challenges to deal with.
How do you source vintage materials?
I have suppliers I can buy from in France and Belgium. Recently, I noticed prices went up, because the demand for vintage leather goods has increased globally. The market is much more competitive now. For instance, Japanese companies often buy from Europe, as vintage clothes here have a history and certain cachet.
First and foremost, I see myself as a craftsman.
If you’re working on a large piece, how much time does it take?
It takes up to 10 hours for a big bag. When you deal with larger sizes, you can only make one piece a day, not more.
How do you reduce waste in your production?
That’s part of the fun. You have to be inventive. I use patchwork techniques to reduce it and try to use each skin as much as I can.
What is luxury for you?
Luxury has to do with quality, beauty and rarity. Then again, I don’t consider myself a luxury aficionado. I come from a working-class background where luxury was not an interest. I think craft defines my work. I’m much more into manipulating materials and traditional techniques than an industrially marketed concept of luxury.
Do the stores that buy your bags care about this?
Yes, they definitely do. I don’t see any reason why tradition and craft should ever go away. We can still count on them for centuries to come.
Who influenced you in fashion?
Someone like Martin Margiela really influenced me. When I studied at la Cambre in the early 90s, Belgian fashion was perceived internationally as cutting-edge and groundbreaking. Véronique Leroy‘s shows were a revelation for me, too.
Does that mean you learnt about fashion through Belgians?
Yes, I did. It was a great group to learn from actually.
Do you think being Belgian and working in fashion is a plus?
I guess people like giving an identity to the objects they buy and they seem to care more and more about the origin of their products. I make my bags here, so I guess that’s something they are sensitive to.
If someone offered to buy your company today or handle your production, what would you do?
I’d refuse. Offers have come in the past -some interesting, others not- but this is my baby, you know. I’m not going to give it away any time soon.