The Leuven Hundreds

Portraits of a city's people, today

We’ve joined forces with Leuven to highlight 100 local people, places and projects that contribute towards making the city what it is today. From artists and architects to producers and professors, these are the driving forces powering Leuven forward one ingenious initiative at a time.

Mieke Desmet

Mieke Desmet

Founder and owner, PROFIEL (1958)

Can you describe what you do?

I run PROFIEL, a boutique for high-end women’s clothing on the vibrant Mechelsestraat. I founded the shop in 1986, and was one of the first to sell brands such as Dries Van Noten and Ann Demeulemeester. Additionally, PROFIEL was also one of the first stores to open on Mechelsestraat. Today, it’s a very vibrant neighbourhood with many personal and specialised stores, where owners themselves are usually present to give you a helping hand which all makes for a very friendly atmosphere. From the best cheeses, the hottest eyewear, to clothing for the entire family, Mechelsestraat has it all. I joined forces with my daughter Hannah just under four years ago, and it’s proven to be loads of fun. We make the perfect team, with the creative aspects dealt by me, whilst my daughter is the more calculated one thanks to her legal background. We try to create an environment of beauty and serenity in PROFIEL, making sure to buy only the things we both absolutely love.

How do you perceive Leuven?

Although Leuven is a rather small city, it’s also very vibrant thanks to the presence of the University and its hospital. Both entities attract people from all over the world, creating a highly interesting and intelligent mix of people living in our fair City. More than mere tourists, these people actually live in the city and contribute to its growth and special atmosphere. And as a result of the strong presence of students, Leuven is also a rather youthful city where new initiatives are always warmly welcomed.

What would you say is Leuven’s main appeal as a city? What gives it its edge?

Besides the special mix of inhabitants made up of a mass of students and people who come from far and wide to work for the University and it’s many bodies, Leuven also boasts a beautiful historical centre, which further contributes to its cosiness and charm. The fact that the University was founded in 1425 as one of the very first of its kind in the world still marks the City to this day as a very important space for innovation and intelligence worldwide.

Building a clientele in a city that’s not your hometown was not always easy – but thankfully Leuven has always had a welcoming heart.

How has Leuven contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?

Due to the fact that there are a lot of outsiders coming to live in Leuven – attracted precisely by the many business opportunities the University has to offer – the City is always open for new businesses. I myself am not technically a Leuven local, having simply decided to stay on after my studies. Building a clientele in a city that’s not your hometown was not always easy – but thankfully Leuven has always had a welcoming heart.

On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city? What could it do better?

More activities held on Sundays would be much appreciated. As vibrant as the City is during the week and even Saturdays, on Sundays it can unfortunately feel really dead. For instance, a farmers’ market would make a huge difference.