Natan x Denis Meyers - A collaboration written in advance Fashion - 17 July 2017
Edouard Vermeulen, artistic director of Natan, invited Brussels street artist Denis Meyers to create a customised version of the iconic Ethan handbag. We had the opportunity speak with him about the current situation of this House that always keeps up with times, without falling into the trap of trendiness at any cost.
These past months, you have connected with young designers including Valentine Witmeur Lab, Façon Jacmin, Gioia Seghers and handbag brand Dcember. Now you have reached out to artist Denis Meyers. Why?
Edouard Vermeulen: Collaborations such as those you mentioned create stimulation in two directions. For the designers, working with a House like Natan is a good way to experience the reality of an institutional brand which certainly faces different challenges than their own. For us, these collaborations are an opportunity for exchange with young creative talents in whom we propose to invest our boutiques and windows. These synergies are very stimulating.
How did you become aware of the work of Denis Meyers?
We met in the course of his project at the hôtel Solvay. I loved his work immediately- to the point of buying one of his works for my Amsterdam store. I do not consider myself a collector, just an art lover who acts based on what I like.
You just brought up the store design of one of your boutiques. In 2017, there was a lot of talk about the buying experience, especially in the world of fashion. Does this aspect concern you, as well?
Certainly, especially as I have never wanted to invest myself in a concept store. Selling books or dinnerware in a Natan boutique doesn't make any sense. It's not what my customers are looking for. In terms of the buying experience, presenting works of art or designer jewellery better corresponds with our desire to go to the heart of who we are and to respect our identity. Today, we see that 70% of the people who come into one of our stores, make a purchase. They know what they are coming to find. We want to take good care of them.
How did this project with Denis Meyers get off the ground? Did you have something specific in mind, any particular wishes?
The collaboration unfolded in a very natural way. Denis Meyers' black and white themes fitted very well with the elegant spirit of our collections. To select the words that would appear on the bag, we reflected on it together, taking into consideration the time and place that the bag would be launched: Knokke, fashion, sand, etc.
The Denis Meyers Ethan bag was inspired by summer at Knokke: a town that is close to your own heart. As is Belgium overall. Do you cultivate your Belgitude, Edouard Vermeulen?
I think it is essential. One cannot capitalise forever on the legacy of the Antwerp Six to embody the excellence of Belgian fashion. They enabled our country to find a prime position in the international fashion scene.
In today's difficult economic context, we must continue to draw attention to our fashion design schools and our designers. Many of us share this vision, as was evident from a recent conversation I had on this topic with representatives of the Business Federation.
This approach is also in-line with your desire to give Natan a firmly contemporary grounding.
Our Belgian clientele remains very classic in its tastes and expectations. This doesn't prevent us from reflecting on how to rejuvenate our image. Rejuvenation doesn't necessarily mean attracting a younger clientele, because today, you will find clients who are 30, 40 or 60 years falling in love with the same dress. What is important is to cultivate a fresh and contemporary image through, for example, our photo shoots. A brand is 70% product and 30% image. So you cannot neglect anything. These campaigns will allow us to offer our customers new perspectives, but with a gentle, gradual approach.
Have you briefed your teams of stylists on this?
I am surrounded by young and dynamic teams, from whom I require constant evolution. But again, it is important to understand that, in the current environment, a woman who wishes to dress in a trendy style has enormous choice in the mass retail world. At Natan, we distinguish ourselves by offering collections that have a certain timelessness, but that are always very feminine. Our trademark is above all our couture spirit. The bag that has emerged from this collaboration will be presented and sold on Friday, 4 August at the Natan boutique during the Nuit de Zoute, at a price of 3000€. All of the money from the sale will go to the Laly foundation for neurological research for children who have experienced cranial trauma.
Interview by Marie Honnay
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