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One of the most exciting pieces of fashion news we’ve had for a while must be the return of Antwerp fashion designer, Bruno Pieters, to the fashion fold almost two years since his walk out on Hugo Boss and his own label in 2010.
Pieter’s return is something of a fashion revolution. His new label Honest by turns fashion on its head with its environmental credentials, international inspiration and lack of fashion ego.
Inspired by Pieter’s travels in Asia during his sabbatical, the label will feature other designers alongside Bruno Pieters. Add to that, a complete transparency provided by a breakdown of how the price of each piece is calculated, down to details like labels, thread and the all important design costs (fashion students take a lesson right there!).
We were thrilled to interview Bruno about Honest by, and his aspirations for this most inspirational of projects.
FLUX: You quit Hugo and retired your own label in 2010. What made you decide to take such a decisive break from fashion? I don’t imagine it was an easy decision – was it a fashion version of a nervous breakdown?
BRUNO PIETERS: Working for Hugo Boss was a great experience for me as a designer, a lot of the dreams that I had as a student at the Royal Academy of Antwerp came true. I always believed an opportunity like that would give me everything I had always wanted, and it did, but it wasn’t making me happy. On the contrary it was creating a lot of stress. This disappointment was probably a trigger. I guess you could say it was a fashion nervous breakdown. I didn’t know what I wanted out of life anymore. This crisis came gradually and when the three year contract with Boss ended I immediately decided to also stop my own label. It wasn’t a difficult decisions to make, I really needed a break.
FLUX: The idea of taking stock and totally changing path. I think it is inspirational across all genres and especially brave when you are in the position you were in. It sounds almost religious! But how do you start to make such a brave step?
BRUNO PIETERS: I always had a low self esteem, maybe that is one of the things that saved me,because it made me very open to change and take that first step.
FLUX: You have come back with this radical concept for a fashion store, and the name says it all – Honest by. It feels almost like a reaction against the commerciality of the fashion world that you experienced?
BRUNO PIETERS: Honest by is not a reaction against anything. I have no problem with the commerciality in fashion.There is nothing wrong with that, we all need to make a living. Honest by is just something I wanted as a customer. I created this concept for people like me who love fashion but at the same time need something more than a pretty show and a fabulous campaign.
My sabbatical made me realize how precious and unique this moment we have been given on this planet is. I love and respect life, I see myself as a part of a mystery. At the same time I am very aware that we live in a world in which we prefer not to think about the purpose of life and even find it more comfortable or important to focus on the distractions we’ve invented. One of those, and in my opinion the most powerful, is consumption. All the problems we face today, and endanger life as we know it, are related to consumption I think. Which is in my opinion a hopeful thought, because this means there is a true opportunity for change, one we can all be a part of. With Honest by I wanted to make conscious shopping a fun and creative experience.
FLUX: I notice your own brunopieters.com website has a pointer straight to Honest by. Is Bruno Pieters now completely Honest By?
BRUNO: Bruno Pieters is only available via Honest by at the moment. But it is possible I will bring out a collection in Paris again in the future.
FLUX: When did you first start thinking about the idea for Honest by? Is it an idea that has evolved with your travels – or was there a Eureka moment with it?
BRUNO: I think I always knew I would come back to fashion. Because to me fashion is such a delightful way to celebrate the beauty of life.There were a lot of people and events that inspired me for Honest by. My travels in India, certain philosophy books that I read, the famous quote from Gandhi ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’ etc. At the same time I’m someone who enjoys to create new things. That’s probably why I decided to work in this business. The Eureka moment will come when one person on this planet will stop hoping for change and realise they are the only change necessary.
FLUX: It is so transparent, and the idea of providing the consumer with a breakdown of costs – I haven’t seen that before. I find it amazingly refreshing and also fascinating with the detail right down to the labels – what has the response to that been? Do you find people are surprised by how that works out?
BRUNO: Many people are surprised when they first visit Honest by. The reactions and support we have been receiving from around the world is incredible. The enthusiasm is very encouraging. At the same time it’s funny to see that after a while customers find this completely normal and do not even read the information anymore. They like to have it there but focus on the collection in the end. Which is nice I think.Transparency should be taken for granted.
FLUX: Can you tell us about a couple of the places you visited while you were travelling in Asia? How does your experience on your journey feed in to Honest by?
BRUNO: I visited the North and South of India during two months. What struck me most about the cities and villages I visited was the openness of the inhabitants. The way people interacted with me was very warm and honest. They are proud of their products and immediately tell you by whom and where something was made, the time it took to make them. Complete, spontaneous and ego-free transparency. It was very inspiring
FLUX: Honest by feels like a breakthrough in Eco/Organic fashion. There is none of that new age /amateur feel that so often comes with that end of the market with exceptions of course. Plus the designs are really great – retaining your constructivist high fashion, androgynous shapes. All the feel of a brand new high fashion collection. Is this the first real high fashion collection that works with Ecological, ‘honest’ ideals?
BRUNO: I don’t know why we use the term Eco fashion, why do we add eco to it, it’s just fashion. It’s like when people talk about ‘gay marriage’, it’s a marriage between two human beings why add the word ‘gay’ to it?
I designed the collection for Honest by as I would have designed any of my collections. I never think about the environment when I design. Using organic or life friendly fabrics is something evident to me. The look of the collection is what i believe is innovative and interesting now. I was tired of doing cocktail dresses with high heels.
FLUX: Will Honest by totally avoid all the usual fashion restrictions of season / shows / distribution etc? Would showing at fashion weeks ever be on the agenda or does that not go with the ethos of the brand (is brand the right word to use for it??)?
BRUNO: It is possible we might do shows in the future. I would love to show in New York or London once, but it doesn’t need to be with my collection. It could be fun to have one of our guest designers showing their collection for Honest by. I like to offer clothes for all temperatures, that doesn’t mean we could not present them during a fashion week.
FLUX: Can you tell us about the charities Honest by will support?
BRUNO: The charities are chosen by the designers. I chose SISP in India . It’s a children’s charity that I visited two years ago . They offer free education to underprivileged children in the South Of India. Donating money to charity might not be the solution to the problems we face in the world today but for now it is still important. Many of us are in need of urgent help.
FLUX: You will be bringing other designers in to create fashion for Honest by. How will this work? Do you have anyone lined up as yet?
BRUNO: Yes, we have planned 4 designers this year. Every three months there will be a new collection presented. They’re going to be all very different. So far everyone has been very enthusiastic. They are excited about sharing the quality of their designs. Because so many people still don’t know the true value of a garment and the work that goes into it. Which is normal because there is so much unclarity and rumors about the industry right now.
FLUX: Going backwards maybe – and sorry for repeating. I think I am really interested in this idea of change. You on the surface had the fashion dream – the big label hook up, your own name label. Like Marc Jacobs,McQueen, Stella McCartney….Obviously sometimes it is not so perfect- look at McQueen. But you were able to say “stop” – and make a change that is such an utter change it is quite revolutionary, especially for someone in your position and with your credibility. But to find a different way for fashion. I am so hoping it works out and becomes a success for you! Did it ever/does it feel like a gamble? Or was it something essential for you? Could you contemplate not having made this step and where you would be otherwise?
BRUNO: It does not feel like a gamble. But sometimes I do wonder if I started this project too soon. But at the same time, why wait? Now is always the best and only moment to do something.
FLUX: Is it a journey you went through alone, or did you have supportive friends/family/team around you?
BRUNO: I’m very lucky to be surrounded by true friends and a family that I love. I would not be able to do this without them.
FLUX: What are your inspirations – have they changed from say 10 years ago or are they the same and it is just the manifestation that has changed?
BRUNO: My inspiration is what it has always been, Love, which to be is the unknown we all know by heart. Sometimes it’s just blocked by distractions.
Honest by is only available online at www.honestby.com.