Bernard Depoorter. A creature of instinct, a guardian of craftsmanship. Fashion - 16 December 2016
He is still only 35, though you would give him 10 less, and in just over 10 years this Belgian has not only built a house of fashion but is also on a mission to preserve and safeguard forgotten crafts in a quest not unlike that initiated by empires much bigger than him.
At the age of 18, with the backing of his family, but without going through the "fashion school" channel, Bernard Depoorter decided to leave Walloon Brabant to learn the craft of dressmaking in Paris. By force of passion and perseverance, he gained a foothold in the studios of Dior, Scherrer, Sorbier.... As for the dressmaking part per se, Bernard Depoorter had learned it a few years earlier, at the age of 12, alongside experienced seamstresses in his native region. In Paris, he perfected the art of dressmaking with Stéphane Rolland, discovered the importance of choosing the right models (those who sublimate a dress), and explored forgotten crafts (feather workers, embroiderers, glovers, etc.) that amazed him with their capacity to add depth to his nascent style. This passion for craftsmanship was to become the guiding thread of his work, and still features heavily in his creations today.
Peacocks and brushes
Back in Belgium, the man who defines himself above all as "a craftsman couturier, rather than as a designer", refused to go down the easy route. In 2003, at the age of 22, he decided to set up his own fashion house. And what a fashion house! Housed in an old bicentennial family house in the heart of the small town of Wavre, Bernard Depoorter's house/studio brings together old-fashioned decor, art and fashion books arranged in each room, office space filled with sketches, pearls and tubes of paint, without forgetting the inner courtyard inhabited by a pair of peacocks, a detail that neatly sums up the free and unconventional spirit of a young man who, nevertheless, very much has his finger on the pulse. Bernard Depoorter: "Very soon after the launch of the brand, I was lucky enough to create two outfits for Anne de Bourbon-Siciles, my fairy godmother so-to-speak. It was through her that I was able to organise a first show in Paris, the beginning of the adventure."
Côté Cour/Côté Jardin
Bernard Depoorter has chosen to hinge this adventure around three segments: Côté Cour, a couture line whose pieces (from €1,500 for a dress) are entirely tailor-made in his own workshops. Côté Jardin, the younger and more affordable ready-to-wear line, and finally the bestsellers, a series of iconic pieces – a tuxedo style trouser suit or pencil dress - all lined with purple satin, his trademark. Bernard Depoorter: "my premium quality fabrics are predominantly Italian. The prototypes and couture pieces, many beaded or embroidered (some requiring hundreds of hours of work) are created at the fashion house itself. For the ready-to-wear line, I use workshops in Wallonia, Flanders and Paris, the same ones that produce for Natan or Dries Van Noten." On a day-by-day basis, Bernard Depoorter is surrounded by a fine string of young talents who, after being trained in pattern design, embroidery or leather work, complete his team: "They are brilliant and push me to permanently surpass myself."
In Belgium, Bernard Depoorter showcases his work during private catwalk shows. This intimate approach is well suited to this young man who prefers "not to follow fashion, but his instinct". Since 2010, he has been dressing Princess Claire, then, three years later, Lara Fabian came knocking and asked him to design her stage outfits. However, this success does not prevent him from putting himself constantly into question and from pursuing other dreams, including that of seeing one of his dresses on a red carpet. While waiting for this dream to come true, Bernard Depoorter is working on his next fashion show in Paris, next Spring. A show that he sees as a real CV, "a summary of my know-how." I’ve decided to leave my comfort zone and set out again to conquer Paris. After giving thought to the future of my company, I came to the conclusion that I did not want to keep it for myself. My goal today is to join a group that takes charge of the management of my business and its future. I have great ambitions - growth in France and Benelux and the creation of a foundation to preserve crafts in Belgium - but I want to keep some time for myself, for my private life. A successful life is one that is fulfilling both professionally and personally. "
By Marie Honnay