Antwerp and its Fashion Department have produced the finest names in modern fashion history (don’t @ me, it’s a fact). So what do you do when a bunch of Academy friends get together in 2016 (in a group of six, mind) and present you with a fresh new expo? You sit up straight in your Balenciaga thigh-highs and you pay attention, that’s what.
Laura Lemaitre (BE), Predrag Petrovic (SE), Wim van Bokhoven (BE), Kjell De Meersman (BE), Isabelle Schoutetens (BE) and Shayli Harrison (AU) met each other circling the Antwerp fashion microcosm and noticed they all share a similar fascination for their daily feeds of random content. So they decided to stage a group show inspired by just that under the collective name ‘BR.A.K.’ (‘BRutaal Artistieke Koffie’). The expo is called ‘Please Don’t Take Pictures’, runs from 13/10 until 16/10 in Ghent, and we had questions so we caught up with vivacious talent Laura Lemaitre.
What kickstarted ‘BR.A.K.’?
“The concept of ‘BR.A.K.’ is something that has been a ghost in my head, for quite some time now. When I moved in with Kjell (De Meersman) last year, we had the idea of creating a website about ourselves that would contain a stream of photos and videos of our ‘brutal’ lifestyle. Over dinner this summer, Kjell, Predrag (Petrovic) and I decided to start with an expo and show work that inspired us and images that keep us going. We immediately knew we wanted to involve Shayli (Harrison). When I started talking to friends about the expo, Wim (van Bokhoven) and Isabelle (Schoutetens) instantly fit into in the idea that defines BR.A.K..”
You’ve said before that you’re all addicted to a constant stream of visuals, what artists or musicians or designers are really inspiring you or making you happy at the moment?
“I keep track of the classics like Gucci, Prada, Vetements, Comme des Garçons but besides those I have a few favourites at the moment. The artist BFGF, she’s a super cool chick who makes wonderful stuff, and stylists like Pierre-Ange Carlotti from Brussels. Graphic and installation work from friends like BRENDA or drawings by Nelis Naessens also make me super happy at the moment.”
Why the name ‘Please Don’t Take Pictures’?
“It refers to the fact that there’s an overload of pictures today because of Instagram, Facebook, Tumblr. We need images as proof, words are not enough anymore. We’re all so busy capturing everything around us on our phones, that it kind of becomes a joke.”
Could you tell us something about each of your friends working on the expo?
“I’ll start with my hubbies, Kjell en PrePre (Predrag). Kjell is a fierce Momma and a Belgian designer, he just started the 3rd Bachelor year at the Academy and he’s already worked for AF Vandevorst. He models on the side and has designed a silhouette for The Post-Couture Collective, opening at Paris Texas in Antwerp October 20th.
Then there’s PrePre. You’ve got to love him and his hair, and everything attached to it. He’s from Serbia, used to live in Munich and Berlin and finished his bachelor’s degree in fashion last summer. He showed his collection at Prague Fashion Week a month ago and will take a year off so he can prepare for his master’s degree.
Shayli, the Australian Diva, started her master’s this year. She has her own brand but put it on hold for the moment. Besides all this she started a performance career with the Orphan Swords, they will be debuting a show very soon.
Wim, the more sensitive guy of the bunch, is a fit model at the Academy. He takes beautiful analogue pictures of the people that surround him and of his loved ones.
And last but not least we have Isabelle from Kortrijk, who may look timid but is a tiger on the inside. She also studied fashion and lingerie after that. She worked at Christian Wijnants last year and in May she started at Dries Van Noten.”
How do you look back on your Academy days?
“The Academy changed me as a person and a designer, for sure. I lost some and won some. I really pushed myself mentally and physically and learned a lot about self-discipline.”
You worked with great designers like Devon Halfnight Leflufy, Rachel Comey andChristian Wijnants. Which general lessons did you pick up during this time and what did you learn from each designer?
“In general I think I learned how a company works in every department, small or big, which was super interesting. I didn’t work that closely with Rachel (Comey), but it was super nice to live and be in New York even for a short time. With Christian, I worked with a great team, I had a lot of fun and really discovered my passion for sales and learned a lot during the showroom days in Paris. I was quite close with Devon, I didn’t work for him that long but he taught me a lot. And even today, when I pop in for a coffee, he tells me all the newest things I have to check out: designers, new brands, new music or even the new best thing to eat.”
That sounds like Devon! You’ve recently started creating ‘djellaba’ dresses, what’s the story behind them?
“Djellabas are super comfortable, loose and easy to wear. So it all started with one dress that I made for myself from an old Fila T-shirt. When I wore it out it got a lot of positive attention, so I decided to make a small collection. Every Djellaba dress is unique, I start with a second hand t-shirt that I then cut up and mix with jersey fabric to add colour. I could do custom orders, but I don’t want make too many. I have a small collection now; I will make it a bit bigger and see how it sells. At BR.A.K. I will show them in an installation but they won’t be for sale yet.”
Any other future projects you’re excited about?
“I have two exciting projects coming up: two shoots for my Djellaba dresses. One with my friend, Benjamin van Oost, who just created a wonderful jewellery collection. And the other one will be for stylist Farah El Bastani. I’m also planning to make a bomber collection, ‘Les Vetements Lemaitre’. And of course there will be a second BR.A.K. expo somewhere in early 2017. So stay tuned! Hah!”
‘PLEASE DON’T TAKE PICTURES’
In De Ruimte
Thursday 13/10 (7:30 PM – 10 PM)
Friday 14/10 (7:30 PM – 1 AM)
Saturday 15/10 & Sunday 16/10 (2 PM – 7 PM)
Live (dj) performances on 13/10 (Isaac Vallentin and Summit) and 14/10 (Bibi Seck)
More info here.