NIYONA Fashion, Design - 01 December 2016
Geert de Taeye
Co-founder of the Niyona studio, Nina Bodenhorst could have simply churned out yet another brand of bags. Teaming up with her life partner and a handful of external partners, she went the extra mile. Spotlight on a concept that captures the zeitgeist.
After graduating in industrial design and training in leather craftsmanship, Nina Bodenhorst cut her teeth as a designer with the Belgian fashion houses Delvaux and Nathan-Baume. Very quickly, this young Belgian knew that she wanted more: her own brand - and a studio – bearing her name. In 2010, she put her project into action and launched Niyona. Her trademark: graphic and very luxurious pieces - mainly bags and travel accessories - that are as functional as they are aesthetic. Three years later, in 2013, before craftsmanship became a buzzword, as well as the preferred marketing tool of luxury brands in search of extra credibility, Nina and her life partner Jonathan Wieme launched Hello James (named after their son), a studio that draws you into its white and minimalist interior, located in the heart of Brussels, on Rue de Laeken.
Very quickly, the studio became a showcase for the brand, but also a creative playground and an exchange platform. Nina sells her own products, as well as those of other creators, organises workshops open to the public while developing exclusive products for other companies. Nina Bodenhorst: "Since the beginning of our adventure, we have positioned ourselves as a design studio, but when we took the decision, in order to be consistent with our objectives, to change the name from Hello James to that that of our brand, Niyona, a growing number of companies began to take an interest in us and to push open the door of the studio to entrust us with their projects. We are currently working with several restaurants, including Bon-Bon in Brussels, for whom we have created cutlery cases, as well as other pieces of tableware. We have also made cases for the spectacle manufacturer Ludovic, leather aprons for the Vedett brewery and for the media-friendly butcher Dierendonck in Ostend and even a Pétanque case for the Maison Vervloet Objects Collection. We oversee the projects from A to Z: from the development of a graphic chart, to a mood board and the follow-up of production, and are also involved in the positioning of the product, pattern design and the search for the tools and techniques best suited to the project."
Transmission and feminism
Since last year, besides her personal collections and her many collaborations, Nina Bodenhorst is also part of the panel of experts that trains the students of the Luxury Management section, a training course organised in Brussels by the Modesign Academy. As part of this curriculum, Nina transmits her know-how as industrial designer and leather craftsman through workshops in leather goods. Nina Bodenhorst: "When it comes to luxury, it's important that young designers who want to venture in this direction understand what justifies the prices in this niche. Craftsmanship, noble materials ... All this comes at a price. This training creates this awareness among students. Since having James, I also want to show these young students that a woman can be accomplished both on a private and a professional level. This aspect is very close to my heart. Today, crafts and local production are popular, but for us these two aspects are an integral part of our DNA. Our profession is hinged around excellence and we are proud of it."