These two designers of inspiring prints are as close as they are complementary. An inseparable duo on the town and on the stage, they design fabrics that are exported around the entire world. A meeting with Barbara Repole, cofounder with Sébastien Pescarollo of Belgian label PIECEOFCHIC.
Tell us about the ‘click’, the moment when you said “That’s it! We have our concept”
The click came out of our earlier experiences …When I discovered that all the companies I was working for bought their ideas – and thus their prints – from outside, rather than letting their own stylists express themselves, I had the idea to offer my own designs to those brands. Sébastien and I very much wanted to work together. Our studio is the perfect combination of our two professions: I’m a designer, and he is a graphic designer.
Had you thought about exporting from the time you launched the project?
At the start of our activity, we offered our prints to Belgian brands, but we quickly realised that if we wanted our studio to grow, we absolutely had to think bigger. So we worked with an agent in New York. Then we pursued Los Angeles, Japan, Australia and certain European markets including London, Amsterdam and Paris.
Participating in international fairs seems inescapable for you. Why?
These fairs offer an opportunity to better understand our sector. We can meet new clients, see what other studios are developing and if the market is doing well. We participate in several fairs a year, in Paris, New York, Frankfurt or London, but also in Portland in the USA. It’s the first time a fair is showcasing our speciality.
You have worked with big brands, such as Nike. Is this a source of pride? A business card?
Both. It’s incredible to be able to create with total freedom, while meeting the needs of prestigious brands. It’s also an excellent business card. Our client list gives confidence to our prospective customers.
Is working as a couple a strength?
We are fortunate to be able to travel together to meet with new clients. It’s a real luxury! Our work organises itself in a natural way. Sébastien takes care of the communication side. I manage our staff, because we work with a team of outside and freelance designers.
Your experience with clothing was intense, but short-lived. Do you think you might ever go back to it?
We often think about it because we really loved working on our dress collection. That said, we are satisfied with our decision to stop. In the sector, collections move too quickly. Production is less and less ethical, and people always want lower prices! We had a lot of trouble finding boutiques that were ready to take risks. The smaller brands have no choice but to create online boutiques or to organise temporary pop-ups. The whole process takes a lot of time and investment. So we prefer to stay focused on designing prints, the most fulfilling side of this work.
You talk about ethics. What role does the concept of sustainability play in your project?
Currently, we work with a Belgian printer who makes our sample fabrics with water-based inks. For the rest, we unfortunately don’t have control over what the brands do with our prints once they buy them. Even if we are only a service provider (we don’t produce anything), the lack of ethics by certain brands impacts us. Imagining a sustainable approach to printing is a real challenge… but why not?
What is your next dream project?
We would like to develop the ‘homewares’ side of our activity, by offering our prints to professionals in the decorating sector. But each niche requires its own approach. In the medium term, I would also like to develop an online boutique to sell our prints to individuals, so royalty-free and at affordable prices.