Young Belgian fashion label Percy Stone, famous for their colourfully printed scarves in fancy fabrics, is the brainchild of Belgian-born Pierre De Greef (Pierre means “stone” in English) and UK exile Sophie Bartle (Percy is her hometown). It’s early days yet (every time Sophie sees one of their scarves on the streets, she still gets terribly excited) and the amicable duo have yet to even have a disagreement. The tight-knit team tell us about the label they’ve been building together and why “commercial” is turning out to be more difficult than “edgy”.
How did you end up working together?
Pierre: We had already been working together very closely as part of a very small team at a big Belgian fashion company. We got on really well and became friends.
Sophie: When Pierre left we kept meeting up. Pierre had already had the idea of doing something together for a long time, but it was hard to fit it into our busy lives. At a dinner about 18 months ago, I said “It’s time – if we don’t do it now, we’ll never do it.”
What is it that makes you function well together?
S: We’re very complementary. I’m the organised one and Pierre is the more artistic one. I’m rather reserved and like to stay behind the scenes, while Pierre is a good talker and likes doing the communication part.
P: We’re not only creative, but we also pay attention to marketing and understanding the customer. It’s almost more difficult to be commercial than edgy. I always ask myself: Would I wear that? Would the girl on the street wear that?
S: And we pay a lot of attention to the price point, colours and sourcing materials. That’s something very important, to use nice raw materials.
You said it’s more difficult to be commercial than edgy. So where do you position yourselves?
P: Probably somewhere in the middle. We want to create something beautiful, something that makes people more beautiful. That’s the whole point of fashion. Of course, we want to keep it special but at the same time we’d like to be internationally successful. We’re already selling in France, Holland and Sweden.
S: It makes us happy to please lots of people and we really value people’s opinions. We always consult people for feedback, from the hipster to the more classic ones.
So your goal is making things that people actually wear… have you ever spotted your scarves on the street?
S: Yes, and every time I’m so excited! It’s very surreal. I always take a picture and send it right to Pierre, also of show windows.
You mentioned the raw materials are very important. Where do you find them?
S: We use a lot of cashmere, silk and wool that we mainly get in India and Nepal.
P: I’ve been travelling to India a lot to meet the producers, check out the factory, see if everything’s fair trade and things like that. We don’t just go for the cheapest. We always contact several factories and try to find the best.
Why did you decide to make fashion only for women?
P: The market is easier, women spend more money on clothes, especially accessories. And we had to start somewhere. And we like to do crazy colour prints; Belgian men are probably not ready yet for that. But there are pieces that could be worn by both.
S: Also, we started right after the financial crisis had begun. Scarves are one size only, there is no fitting problem, and a woman will rather by an accessory to pimp up her classic pieces than buy a new black dress.
What do you like about working as a duo?
S: The support. When you have doubts you can share ideas and it’s easier to resolve problems.
P: Creatively you can go much further than alone, two minds are better than one. I wouldn’t want to do it on my own.
S: Some people are good on their own, I’m not. And I think the fact that we lead different lives and have different experiences enriches our working relationship very much.
What kind of things to you fight about?
P: That’s the strange thing: We’ve never had a fight. I swear. It’s really weird.
S: Touch wood it stays like this! Maybe there will be more potential for disagreements in the future, when the operation gets bigger and more complicated.