Brussels’ twist on fashion: cosmopolitan, eclectic and free-spirited



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Sep 6 2021

Has Brussels made its mark on contemporary fashion? It is the thesis that develops an exhibition that has just opened its doors in the Belgian capital and that reviews, from the 80s to the present, the work of 33 designers influenced by a cosmopolitan, eclectic and free-spirited city, reflected in their garments .

Brussels museum

“Brussels Touch” is the title of this exhibition organized by the Brussels Fashion and Lace Museum, which collected the creations of designers who had ties with the city in order to discover those characteristics in common, since “it is important build the memory of their work ”, as Denis Laurent, director of culture, museums and archives of the Belgian capital, explained in an interview with Efe.

“The Brussels touch is very subtle” because it is a city “very cosmopolitan, eclectic and a bit chaotic,” said Laurent, who assured that all these particularities are expressed in fashion.

Although Brussels is not considered a city of fashion like Paris, Milan and New York, the “spirit of freedom” of the Belgian capital allows creators to have more autonomy to express their own identities.

Laurent highlighted that one of the most famous designers present at the exhibition is Olivier Theyskens, who has managed to print his style on luxury brands such as Rochas, Nina Ricci and Azzaro, in addition to dressing artists such as Madonna.

You can also see pieces by designers such as Anthony Vaccarello, creative director of the Saint Laurent firm; Julien Dossena, creative director of Paco Rabanne, and the Belgian-Spanish José Enrique Oña Selfa, former creative director of Loewe.

Many of the selected designers were trained at La Cambre, an internationally renowned art and design school, which in the 1980s founded its department of styling and fashion creation.

In that same decade the STIJL boutique emerged, the first to sell and distribute the work of designers from Brussels, which is why they were key years in the emergence of the fashion sector in the Belgian capital.

Brussels fashion

The exhibition’s curator, Frenchwoman Lydia Kamitsis, found that what characterizes Brussels fashion is not something visible, but is based on attitude and relationship with materials.

Kamitsis classified the designs into five groups distinguished by humility, craftsmanship, unorthodox, poetic, and generosity.

The humility section brings together pieces based on understated elegance and the subtle choice of materials, while the handcrafted includes dresses reminiscent of expressionist and abstract painting.

A belt with a nose-shaped buckle and a white sweatshirt made from knitted tablecloths fall into the category of the unorthodox, where the sense of humor and the absurd prevail.

For its part, the poetic has a “strong tendency to be very meticulous with the beauty of little things and the perfection of details,” said Laurent.

Generosity is expressed with a commitment to current problems, which is why “designers who work with sustainability issues” can be found in the exhibition, said Laurent.

One of Marine Serre’s dresses implements “upcycling”, a technique that consists of transforming waste into valuables, and with different pieces of cloth she sought to represent the dialogue between East and West, inspired by the 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels.

In the case of designer Ester Manas, she works with the concept of “one size fits all”, for which she creates systems to make garments that adapt to all bodies, in order to defend social inclusion and equality.

To complete the outfits, Elvis Pompilio provides the hats, some in the cowboy style and others in the shape of a miniature sweater.

Some very particular designs that have ensured that for almost four decades the stars and hat lovers did not leave Brussels without going to their store.

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