Fashion Programme 2024 10 brands on the road to export

Fashion Programme 2024

10 brands on the road to export

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This year, 10 Belgian fashion and accessories brands have joined the Fashion Programme, a WBDM initiative designed to support them in their international development, both financially and through coaching sessions. The jury for this 2024 edition has chosen 4 brands to benefit from a grant aimed at implementing their export strategy and 6 others to benefit from coaching grants focusing on their own specific challenges.

Valentine Witmeur Lab

Founded in 2015 by Valentine Witmeur, a digital content creator with a large community of followers, and Arthur Spaey, in charge of finance, administration and logistics, this brand centred on knitwear produced in Portugal quickly became a hit. Right from the start, the label developed around a line of 6 jumpers with very distinctive names. This ‘mono-product’ approach has not limited the designer’s creativity, nor her desire to make the brand shine internationally. In recent years, as proof of its determination not to adopt a ‘pure player’ stance, the label, most of which is sold online, has begun a sustained collaboration with La Samaritaine in Paris. In 2023, to get even closer to its B2C customers, but also to raise the profile of the project in a broader sense, the label opened several ephemeral spaces in Brussels, Knokke and Paris.

Over the last few seasons, the collections have gradually moved away from their mono-product approach, and away from the oversized, monochrome style of the first collections, towards a more feminine approach. The aim is to offer a complete wardrobe, in line with current aspirations and the evolution of the studio. This new situation implies the introduction of another important logic: a technical challenge that the brand intends to meet without compromising on the quality and sourcing of its materials. For winter 2024, 100% of models will be offered in 2 or 4 sizes. While export sales currently account for 30% of total sales, the brand’s presence for the third season in a row in two showrooms (one in France and another focusing on the German, Swiss and Austrian markets) underlines the particular attention paid to developing wholesale distribution, as well as implementing a strategy focused on internationalising the project.


In 2019, Carol and Sarah Piron (founders of the ready-to-wear brand FILLES A PAPA) are launching TOMBOY®, an ‘encore’ project to their first line. With its distinctive aesthetic, the monomaniacal blue and red T-shirt flanked by a message created a buzz. Major retailers such as Browns in London and Excelsior Milano sniffed out the potential of this emblematic and slightly subversive concept, which very quickly rallied a community around it that saw itself in this product, in tune with changes in fashion and society at large. Boys and girls alike were falling for the streetwear pieces developed in the wake of the T-shirt. Although TOMBOY® originally provided visibility for FILLES A PAPA, the brand now has its own reality. Sold online, it is also distributed in pop-ups in Knokke in the summer. Alongside their permanent collections of out-of-season basics, the Piron sisters have launched collaborations with artists such as DJ Charlotte de Witte and artistic duo Moncolonel & Spit, Belgian activewear label UNRUN, fashion magazine Numéro and the famous Belgian beer Jupiler, all of which are as desirable as they are credible.

This year marks a turning point for the label. While FILLES A PAPA is now emerging as a creative studio that is distancing itself from the concept of seasonal collections to focus on more niche and collaborative projects, TOMBOY® is taking off by adopting a resolutely ethical approach, both in terms of production and brand strategy. Combining timeless pieces with numbered limited editions, the label is shaping the contours of a modern, no-holds-barred cool-attitude. While the TOMBOY® community is still resolutely national, the short-term aim is to make this approach a permanent one by opening a flagship store in Belgium in the near future and expanding into new markets, including France. The brand is also preparing to launch its first range of sunglasses in the spring, and is embarking on a strategy to establish itself on the French market and find external partners willing to support its development.


Mastermind of the NO/AN leather goods label, a brand launched in 2016 that she has run full-time since 2020, Finnish designer Anna Lehmusniemi has multiplied her collaborations without ever distancing herself from what has made her brand so successful: quality materials (a remarkably beautiful grained leather), reasoned production entrusted to a family workshop based in Portugal, but also a pure, architectural and minimalist style that we readily associate with designers from Northern Europe. The Flap, an iconic bag launched at the label’s inception, has been joined by other models, including the Nott, born of a collaboration with Belgian designer Jean Paul Knott; an obvious link since the two brands share the same values and work with the same sales agent. While NO/AN already boasts a network of 20 shops in Belgium and a further 20 abroad, Anna Lehmusniemi is pursuing her expansion strategy, both in Belgium and abroad.

In March 2024, she will open her own boutique in the Rue Darwin in Brussels, with interior design by Sébastien Caporusso (Designer of the Year in 2021). After a first successful pop-up in the same space, this is an opportunity to present the essence of her world in a very personal setting. In addition to this first project, Anna Lehmusniemi – whose bags are now distributed in all Stockmann shops (the equivalent of Galeries Lafayette in Finland), which have dedicated a corner to her – has taken advantage of the WBDM grant to invite international buyers to the Paris showroom she is organising in the Marais district at the beginning of March, and also to finance prospecting trips to Germany and Denmark, two promising markets given the online sales already recorded from these countries.

Kaly Ora

Now in partnership with Trang Nguyen, who joined her in April 2021, Flore Carlier is continuing to develop her inclusive and sustainable swimwear label, launched in June 2020. Originally, this was an outsider project, to which its founder has devoted herself full-time since the pandemic. In a market that initially left little room for micro-labels wishing to be sold in multi-brand boutiques, Kaly Ora developed first and foremost online, but also through pop-ups. An activewear collection has been added to the swimwear line, which comes in 6 sizes (from XS to XXL). The brand owes its success to the consistency of its designs (inclusive, seamless, combinable and reversible), but also to its sustainable approach. The swimwear is made from recycled Italian fabrics (from fishing nets recovered from the oceans) and tries to meet the needs of all body types. In 2021, its collaboration with Belgian influencer Claire Marnette (@milkywaysblueyes), who co-signed a collection of 3 swimming costumes available in 4 colours, gave it greater visibility, and a second capsule collection was co-created in 2022.

Despite the specific nature of the product (and the many technical constraints associated with it), Flore Carlier and Trang Nguyen have succeeded in anticipating market demand and translating it into a product that is in tune with the times, thanks in particular to their collaboration with a new workshop capable of ensuring larger production runs. Already beneficiaries of a coaching grant as part of the Fashion Progamme 2023, they have decided to put an end to the activewear line to devote themselves to swimwear and develop their sunwear universe with resortwear outfits in cotton and linen gauze. This year’s grant should enable them to develop the brand on the French market. After a first experience last year in a collective space, they are hoping to reach Parisian customers through a pop-up under their own name, but also a new audience thanks to their forthcoming collaboration with the Bordeaux influencer Chloé Allain (@chlosertoyou) planned for this spring.

Valentine Avoh - Rita © Elodie Timmermans
Valentine Avoh

Modernising the wedding dress without turning its back on the very essence of couture. That, in essence, is the DNA of this Brussels-based brand. After a stint at the London College of Fashion and several experiences with established brands both in Belgium and abroad, Valentine Avoh opened her own boutique/workshop in 2017. All the pieces are designed and then handmade in her studio from noble fabrics (silk, lace, embroidery) bought in Europe. Since its inception, Valentine Avoh’s dresses have appeared in a number of magazines (Vogue, NY Times).

AROUND MRS O - FW23 DARKHAN © Victoria Nossent
Around Mrs. O

After working for 12 years with brands that didn’t quite fit in with her ethical principles, Séverine Lagrange decided to launch her own label. Based in Lasne, the designer is developing a cashmere collection with a transparent approach that respects the local cooperatives she works with in Mongolia. The project also pays tribute to Odette, a grandmother with eclectic and refined tastes who passed on her love of travel and arts and crafts. Comprising timeless designs (through the ‘Signature’ line), the brand is distributed online and in a handful of outlets in the capital. For each jumper or accessory, the brand undertakes to provide a repair service, a guarantee of its commitment to sustainable fashion.

Audrey Ickx - Schieve © Lydie Nesvadba
Audrey Ickx

In her studio in Brussels, the designer, who trained in interior architecture, industrial design and jewellery at the Institut Jeanne Toussaint, imagines and creates ‘sculptural’ jewellery that is mixed, contemporary, timeless and centred on slow design. Her slogan, “Schieve Jewellery”, reflects her desire to create pieces that celebrate the importance of the gesture and tend to become one with the wearer. Distributed in several boutiques and e-shops in the capital who, like her, cultivate a passion for handcrafted pieces, she is preparing to launch her own online boutique.

Love Cables - Kimy Gringoire © Jonathan Du Mortier
Kimy Gringoire

Originally called Kim Mee Hye (the name of the designer in Korean), this high-end jewellery brand is now called Kimy Gringoire. It’s a subtle change of identity, in keeping with the brand’s stated desire to break with codes. The codes of classic jewellery, in particular, but also those that govern the world of art. Her line of precious jewellery is made up of emblematic pieces (such as The Cross pendant and The Swing Swing ring) and recent creations. The flagship piece of this new era: the Love Cables bracelet echoes the BIGLOVECABLES project, a series comprising an installation and luminous objects at the intersection of art and collection design. It’s a way of extending the reach of its collections by inviting itself into a larger-scale form of creation.

Dorilou © Michaël Smits

The antithesis of fast fashion, this brand created by Doriane Van Overeem (and renamed Dorilou in 2023) aims to redefine the fashion system. The designer, who graduated from La Cambre, has worked with a number of brands (including AEG, as part of a pilot project focusing on more responsible labelling of clothing), and has taken a radical approach to clothing. An advocate of a ‘zero waste’ approach, she is committed to offering ultra-studied pieces, both in terms of shape and quality of materials, offered in limited editions in a totally non-gendered approach. The brand, which is distributed online, in the designer’s studio and at temporary sales, is complemented by a line of pineapple-fibre accessories (Pinatex) with a mischievous spirit that makes a strong statement. For the brand, which is now also positioning itself internationally, 2024 will be marked by the development of its online strategy.

Pacifique © Bellepaga

Founded in 2015 by two friends, one of whom was born in Bolivia, the birthplace of the alpaca, this brand of clothing and accessories (jumpers, socks, scarves, hats…) aims to promote a wool with exceptional qualities, known for its exceptional thermal properties. BellePaga products are designed to keep both men and women warm. Focusing on sustainable development and fair trade, the label is sold online, as well as in a series of boutiques in Belgium, France, Germany and Austria.

Written by

Marie Honnay

Promoting Creative Minds

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