Fashion likes them young and preferably gifted and, in its never-ending quest for new talent – which does include its own share of vampirism – a global industry is on the lookout for the next big thing. Indeed, Belgium has enjoyed a reputation as being a hotbed for promising designers for a while, as evidenced by this year’s La Cambre show, which took place in Brussels last June. And, despite only being in his fourth year, Pablo Henrard knows how to surprise an audience – even steal the show.
His striking men’s collection – inspired by animals, car machinery and S&M – did not leave anyone indifferent. With their unruly long hair, body-conscious clothes and half-hidden faces, Henrard’s models looked vaguely threatening and androgynous, like lost creatures leaping out of a sci-fi drama. The pale-faced, 20-year-old graduate hails from the region of Liège / Luik, which is not exactly famous for its fashion stars “It’s logical going to Brussels or Antwerp if you want to get into this business”, explains Henrard. “Jean-Paul Lespagnard is from Liège, but he lives and works in Brussels. I did my internship at his atelier during my 1st year and really got on with him.” Even though he hesitated between Antwerp and Brussels, Henrard seems pleased he went for La Cambre “I like the way people support each other throughout the course. I also really got to know the other students, because we are not that many in the end. Teachers may seem cold and difficult sometimes, but you soon find out they are kind and generous people. What I love the most about the teaching is the way it connects to art and its central relationship to fashion. We’re encouraged to do something innovative and qualitative each year.” Although he comes across as soft-spoken and slightly shy, Henrard’s not afraid of big statements. He also has a rather perverted taste, mixing high and low in bizarre ways. His pieces combined fur, PVC, furnishing materials and needlepoint, playing freely with historical and cultural references “I was looking at typical Belgian motifs and was inspired by medieval art. I wanted to mix handicraft techniques with something rougher and cheaper-looking. I guess one of the key ideas was to create some kind of hybrid between man, car and beast.” The needlepoint waistcoat – one of the collection’s standout pieces – took several weeks to make, with up to 12 people involved to get it finished on time “I guess I design in a very architectural way and would love to continue experimenting with this idea of machinery merging with bodies. It’s exciting and I’ve already imagined what my next collection would look like.” The fashion furies can hardly wait for his next step.