Can you describe what you do?
Together with my two partners, Maarten Van Gool and Serge Hannecart, I’ve recently launched a new company called Fosbury & Sons. Most of my time now goes to telling this story to the world out there. Our mission is to change the face of work – we like to call it The Rennaissance of Work. In order to change something, you go into politics (but then, there’s always someone who is saying the exact opposite of what you are saying, and in the end nothing changes), or you write a book. Another way, is to create something. So, for the last two years I’ve been busy creating this new world, a new kind of place to do your daily job, but above all, a place where you love to go to. Another place I love to go to, is my home. An old warehouse transformed into a cosy loft. My girlfriend Naomi, an architect, redesigned the space. We live in the Antwerp North neighbourhood, where there’s rather heavy traffic, but the loft is an oasis of peace and tranquility since it’s an inner area of a building looking out on to the gardens with a lot of greenery. My daily routine starts with a big hug with Naomi, a warm shower and then a bike trip to the office called Fosbury & Sons. A flat white at the Coffeelabs bar of F&S, combined with their homemade granola makes an energetic start of the day, and I’m all set for the meetings, tours, presentations, negotiations, small talks and a lot of emailing during the day. A healthy lunch and the connections with all the nice people walking around at F&S give a boost of energy.
Who do you work with? Which scene do you feel closest to?
I obviously work close together with my managing partner Maarten, who can do the things I really suck at. And that’s exactly what it’s all about. You have to surround yourself with the right people to work with, and then you can realise beautiful things. That’s when the magic happens. Without Serge there would not have been an F&S. He had the guts, the vision, the experience and the trust in two young guys with an idea. He is the born entrepreneur, it is in his blood, and he keeps us awake and sharp for the next step, while he is thinking two or three steps ahead. You can learn a lot from him. The team during the startup phase of F&S was extended by three more external companies which whom we still have a close relationship. The ladies of Von Yellow – Lies and Sayrade – guide us in bringing the F&S story. They have tremendous know how in communication, press relations and they know how the principle of ‘networking’ really works. Without them, nobody would probably know about the existence of F&S. Another close collaboration we have is with Going East. Architects Michiel and Anaïs designed the 3000m2, from scratch. It was a big empty hall, with a certain aesthetic, which they turned into a beautiful warm space. Without them, F&S would not have looked nor felt like it does today. A third indispensable collaboration is the one with Coffeelabs. Virginie and Elisabeth truly are tigers who conquer a savanna with their eyes closed. They know how to pull things together and how to get things done, and always with a smile. Everyday, they make sure we eat fresh and healthy food. We are so grateful. All these collaborations and the ‘scene’ I feel the closest to, have two things in common; they’re based on trust and an authentic human connection. In other words, you just need to have a good feeling with the people you work and live with.
How do you perceive Antwerp?
Antwerp is like a mini-metropolis, or an oversized Belgian township with the allure of the big city life. We have great history to read, amazing architecture to admire while you go for a run, we have great notorious artists like Jan Fabre, but who you can run into at a bar accidentally and start a conversation with. There’s already so much going on, and on the other hand there is still so much uncharted territory. Every single day you have the opportunity to do something, to visit something, to discover something. You can actually never get bored here. And still… Antwerp is not saturated. This combined with the existence of a broad and intense cultural and intellectual scene, makes Antwerp a very compelling city with still a lot of potential ahead. We have great thinkers like Dirk De Wachter and Peter De Keyzer who actually are willing to pave the way and change things in a positive way. We have great entrepreneurs like Serge Hannecart or Bart Van Der Roost who dare to do things differently. We just have to be more audacious, and pull our weight. Mobility for example, is a great challenge that lies in front of us. Can you imagine how much better this can be, and how much more beautiful we can still make this city if we changed and improved the way we move around it? Other cities like Copenhagen are good examples. But we have to do our thing, customised to the singularity of this city and its inhabitants. Good times are ahead of us.
You can’t do anything on your own, you need other people to create and to realise things. Find your kindred spirits and you’ll be amazed of what can happen.
What would you say is Antwerp’s main appeal for creatives and give it its edge?
It’s exactly the combination of the uncharted territory with the big amount of stimuli of a city. There are so many possibilities to do things differently and to change things. The thing is, you can’t do anything on your own, you need other people to create and to realise things. And here in Antwerp, it’s full of intelligent, capable people willing to change their part of the world. Find your kindred spirits and you’ll be amazed of what can happen.
How would you say has Antwerp contributed to making you who you are today? What role has the city played in shaping your outlook and career?
It had a huge impact, life-changing impact I must say. I grew up in the countryside, which was fine until I was 13 or 14. But at the age of 15 I really felt the need to break out, I needed the stimuli of a city. At the age of 18 I could finally discover the city life full time, and in the meanwhile I was studying product design at the Artesis University of Antwerp. I felt total freedom, nobody who tells you what to do or when to do something. No more school bells drilling you into a strict regime, limiting your pace and keeping your world small. No, you are free to go, the only thing you must do, is to get to the next level, no matter how you do it. One thing I definitely learned that time, was finding and – in particular – creating my own path. Stubbornness feeds perseverance, and in the end, this is what makes you get things done. I started studying in Antwerp in 2000, 17 years ago now, which is half my age. You can say Antwerp had an impact. I still live here, and I feel home here. I need a city vibe to be happy, and the vibe of Antwerp is exactly what makes me smile.
On a personal level, what would you like to see more of in the city?
Greenery. I like the parks, they truly are beautiful. But come on, we can do better. Throughout the city there is a lot more space for greenery. I would also like to see less of those stinky noisy inefficient unsociable busses. They are just too big for a city, totally not manoeuvrable enough for the small city roads. They are too big, too noisy, dangerous and always too empty or too crowded.
To you, what is the best way to spend a weekend in Antwerp? If you had to take out-of-towners to one place that truly symbolises the city, what would it be?
Konitori, Le John, a walk in the Den Brandt park, a beer on Vitrin’s terrace and of course, a visit to Fosbury & Sons as well as to its rooftop, which enjoys 360° views over the city.fosburyandsons.com Photography Joke De Wilde