Eric Beauduin:The law of (small) series Fashion - 27 June 2016
Building on an international presence started fifteen years ago, Eric Beauduin opened a boutique-workshop in Brussels in 2013, and recently, an online shop.
He says he is "on shifting sands where communication is concerned". His wry smile suggests that this 3.0 way of envisaging his approach to business affords him great amusement. And yet, Eric Beauduin is no newcomer to the landscape of Brussels fashion. He has garnered enough stories to fill magazine pages. A graduate of La Cambre, the Belgian has won a fair few prizes (including one in Hyères for his ready-to-wear men's line) and increases his collaborations without ever losing his way or falling into the trap of easy, marketed associations. He has notably worked very recently with the Belgian photographer, Laetitia Bica, on a series of portraits of bags inspired by the world of bondage. A theme taken up for the set design of The Art of Assemblage, an exhibition of Belgian designers held this spring in Tokyo by Mad Brussels. His bags in recycled, converted and hijacked leather are to be seen alongside light fittings from the designer Nathalie Dewez, for instance, with whom he has also worked.
The best way of plunging into Eric Beauduin's world is to pop into his workshop-boutique on the Chaussée de Charleroi in Brussels. This is where, for the past three years, he has been dreaming up and manufacturing his bags with their unique appearance and traits. Classical music playing in the background, bag collection held by long straps hanging from the ceiling, small items of furniture trimmed with leather patchwork... Everything is bathed in light from the small urban garden at the rear of the shop. In the middle, a stool covered with skin offcuts confirms that items in the making have recently passed through here. In 2013, Eric Beauduin not only decided to open the doors of his workshop to the public, but he also turned his back on the idea of seasonal collections: "I felt that this approach no longer fitted in with the times nor with the specific features of my product. I am now working on the basis of producing series – about ten a year – with a limited number of items. This makes even more sense considering that the very essence of my work is never to produce two identical items."
The starting point for Eric Beauduin's creative process is his love for tailoring and his desire to dismantle garments, which commenced on leaving La Cambre. This started with fabric assemblies, but he quickly moved on to working with leather as well as fur and denim. Through the years, clutch bags for urban nomads, convertibles (bags that can be carried on the shoulder or the back) and even a Comfort line of accessories and small furniture items have been added to the large multi-pocket designs (the most symbolic of his search into shapes). Eric Beauduin says: "I had the idea of bargain-hunting for furniture and trimming it with leather and also, when I set up in this space, of designing cushions/bags with slight hints of baroque. I am hugely inspired by contact with people, especially women (designers like Isabelle Lenfant or Olivier Hainaut as well as customers). Especially when it means thinking up new models that meet practical, everyday needs."
"I always need to spend as much time as possible in the workshop. I spent a great deal of time in the factories and production units when I was designing clothes at the start of my career", he clarifies. Although this emotional approach to leather goods is totally in line with the boutique-workshop concept, creating an e-shop seems more risky. Eric Beauduin adds: "it's my current challenge. I am trying to communicate as effectively as possible and in an authentic way, to reach an audience that cannot come to the shop. I am surprised in fact by how much pleasure it gives me. I have elected to showcase the bags as a timeline rather than classify them by theme in my e-shop. This coincides with the label in each bag." A label that states the year of manufacture, a serial number and the item number – nothing more. The rest is history, a leap into a purely emotional register, the result of an encounter between a person and a bag, in all its simplicity.
Eric Beauduin Atelier/boutique, chaussée de Charleroi 229, Brussels.