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Myriam Ullens, the house of passion Fashion - 04 April 2016

Fashion week is in full swing when we meet her in her Parisian showroom on rue saint Honoré. Myriam Ullens, the founder of the house that bears her name, is preparing for a trip that will take her from Los Angeles to Seoul and from Hong Kong to Tokyo.

When we walk through the door of her light-bathed apartment with its high ceilings and parquet wood flooring, where the summer collection is lined up, she is busy choosing the pieces that she herself will be taking with her in her suitcase. Nothing could be more natural, given that the Maison Ullens, a project initiated four years ago, was prompted by the idea of putting together a wardrobe of easy-to-wear clothes that were chic yet suitable for her needs as a seasoned globetrotter. "I travel a lot, and I found it hard to pack what I needed. I wanted clothes that were in immaculate condition on arrival and ready to be put on immediately." The initial limited series of twenty pieces quickly grew into forty and then eighty. This led to a fully-fledged collection. A collection in the form of a luxury travel kit, designed as chic and urban sportswear. The watchwords are elegance, an affirmed modernity, wearable yet fun, many pieces being reversible. To put together her first collections, Baroness Ullens brought on board the creative mind of Véronique Leroy. From the outset, the first loved the latter’s sense of elegance, quality, rigour and perfectionism. For four years, the designer put her skills at the service of the brand, before giving way to Kim Laursen, a Danish designer who has honed her skills at Lacroix, with stints at Cacharel, Kenzo, Azzaro or Elie Saab. She now lords it over the Brussels studio, injecting it with her exacting standards and absolute class. However, she takes great pains to respect the DNA of the brand, working with Myriam Ullens’ preferred material in particular, the cashmere softness of the knitwear, or the sensuality of the skins, suede and leather for oversized straight cut trousers, bomber inspired jackets, ultra-feminine corolla skirts or knitwear tops that exude an elegant simplicity.

International renown

While this creative work is done in Brussels, as well as the group’s accounting activities, some of the offices are based in Paris - Myriam Ullens could not entertain the idea of not starting her fashion adventure elsewhere than in the capital of style. A presence abroad that clearly sowed the seeds for her international development. Yet she claims that it is all down to chance – underpinned with talent no doubt. "The clients came to me from all over the world”, says the Baroness. To meet the demand, the house first opened a boutique in Aspen, Colorado, before moving into a second Paris address then a pop up store in London. This year a corner at the Ritz and a New York store are planned. If the Maison Ullens pieces enjoy such widespread popularity, it is thanks to the refined and contemporary class of the lines, but also and above all to their sheer comfort. "Try the Maison Ullens and you’ll be hooked," smiles its founder who stresses that all her pieces are manufactured in Europe, North Italy essentially and France for the leather goods.

Fashion but not only

Yet it would not do full justice to Myriam Ullens’ many talents to only cast her in the role of fashionista. The woman who is now at the head of twenty employees at the "Maison Ullens", out of necessity as much as out of taste, has in the past managed a restaurant on avenue Louise and a cake workshop in the Belgian capital.  Always driven by passion, her close personal encounter with cancer a few years ago has also prompted her to set up a foundation in her (pet) name, which helps those affected by this plague. The Fondation Mimi is supported each year by the Maison Ullens, which donates a part of its profits to it. And when we touch on the subject of her career, which has also included a spell doing charity work in Nepal – an activity pursued with her husband, a baron and art-collector - she smiles. Because "It isn’t over". A US project - but non-fashion-related this time - is in the pipeline for the end of the year. There is no doubt about it, Myriam Ullens is yet to pull many surprises out of her high-fashion or travel bags.

Isabelle Plumhans

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