On advice of British urbanist Charles Landry the city of Antwerp is currently hosting a festival to connect and display all of its creative talents. ‘Born in Antwerp, Harbour of Creativity’ will host a number of events, exhibitions and talks in its headquarters on Kattendijk-Oostkaai – a space in which they built a venue that in itself is a piece of art.
On the fashion front, groundbreaking fashion designer Bruno Pieters curated ‘(Behind) the Clothes’. In this multidimensional exhibition the renowned designer and art director pays tribute to one of his fashion heroes, British designer Katherine Hamnett, exposes designs from his brand Honest By, reinterprets some of his earlier runway looks and salutes over 40 people who are behind the Belgian fashion-making process. Pieters not only brings these individuals to the forefront, but applauds them as well in a captivating manner.
Mirror Mirrors’ Richenny Felicia had the opportunity to experience the exhibition and ask Bruno Pieters a few questions on the current status of the subject matter he masters like no other: sustainability.
At the moment there are quite a few developments going on in terms of sustainability research and the use of new materials. Is that something that Honest By works with as well?
Bruno Pieters: “I find it extremely fascinating and of the up most importance. I’m glad that people are working on these solutions. It’s great to look for alternatives, which might even be better. There are a number of great developments which we have seen recently. For instance the pinatex, which is a pineapple based substitute for leather. However, for us at Honest By, when such a product is released on the market we would have to buy it, because we are not involved in the research process ourselves. We are more design based, and specialized in fabric development. That type of research we’ll leave to people who are specialized in it.”
In a way you are specialists yourself when it comes to different facets of a sustainable production cycle. Do you find that designers often come to you for sustainable solutions?
BP “Well the students we work with, the ones to whom we grant a scholarship, they come to us with questions. The previous winner of our award – this time around we have a winner from Australia – was a girl from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. The students there don’t get any classes, courses or information about sustainable production, therefore she had a lot of questions about different fabrics, suppliers and how to get started. Naturally we get into a mentoring role, but we also learned from her. One of the things that she taught us is that there are a lot of young people who want to be sustainable, yet have no idea how to go about it. It seems very limiting or difficult”
Why does sustainability receive such a passive state of relevance in our industry?
BP “I think it’s a little bit of denial. The overall behavior you see is that people feel like they can put it off until it’s absolutely necessary or urgent.”
Are there schools that do set a good example?
BP Parsons in New York [City] is doing a great job. And [Central] Saint Martins in London and the Royal College of Art. RMIT in Australia as well, that’s where our most recent FFDS winner, Jess Sansum, graduated. She created a Vanilla collection from recycled materials. Extremely fascinating. Very beautiful. Very cool. Very rock ‘n roll. It doesn’t look sustainable at all. That is something I personally always find important, that it doesn’t have this cliché sustainable look from the nineties. That is no longer necessary. Just look at the collection from Marie-Sophie Beinke. It was full of colour, it was everything except for dull and bland. It is possible [to produce sustainably without compromising in design], you just have to put in some effort.
Speaking of efforts, what can we expect from Honest by in the near future? Have you thought about perhaps launching a beauty line? Is that a possibility? “We would love to do that, because I am crazy about organic beauty products. I’ve discovered a few brands on my trips in Los Angeles, and I would like to bring them to Europe, but of course that will cost quite a lot with import taxes and everything. But we will definitely do something. Next year we are probably also going to open up a store. The first real, physical Honest By store in Antwerp and we would like to carry beauty products in it as well. A very limited selection though. Perhaps a scent, a candle, or a day cream of some sort. We have to figure that out. I would like to work with a few company’s, but that is all still in a very early stage. I’ve found a few great serums already.”
We will be back next year to discover the Honest By beauty line for ourselves. Thank you for your time and good luck with the store and all your other ventures.
You can still visit ‘(Behind) the Clothes’ until the end of July. ‘Born in Antwerp’ still offers visitors a diverse program until October 2nd. One of the upcoming not-to-be-missed highlights is OFFF Festival, a three-day graphic design event. borninantwerp.be