‘Conceptual’ is a bit of a dirty word when it comes to fashion vocabulary. I’m not exactly sure where the tendency to develop a specific intellectually sophisticated concept has evolved from but would guess it has something to do with tutors urging students to hang some sort of idea around the figurative neck of their collections.
That’s not to say I don’t approve of the development of fashion into something more than mere items of clothing in cultural terms but too often those working within fashion (not just designers, but stylists, photographers etc.) seem to deem it necessary to give some esoteric, adjective-heavy jargon-based conceptual profile to their work which often has the opposite effect of provoking thought and instead leads to the perpetuation of the opinion that fashion is elitist when, in reality, it’s arguably the most accessible form of self-expression.
That said, bestowing that bit more depth to an artistic idea sometimes enhances the whole experience. Brussels-based Hunting and Collecting have hit the proverbial nail on the head with a concept store that combines a gallery space downstairs (with exhibitions featuring both artists native to European capital and those of international origin) and a retail space upstairs, which boasts the work of designers from personal favourites Patrik Ervell and Carin Wester to Fifth Avenue Shoe Repair and Rachel Comey. The concept, thankfully, is rare in its simplicity with the main thrust being that the store provides for the modern culture of ‘hunting’ and ‘collecting’ – something which, when first heard, seems unabashedly consumerist but is instead merely a reflection on modern life and its associated processes of hunting and collecting memories/artworks/clothing/ideas etc.
To coincide with the launch of their online store, I reckoned it was a good time to pick both Aude and Niels’ brains about the whole affair…
Describe your professional backgrounds, and what motivated you to open Hunting and Collecting?
We both have a creative background:
Aude used to be a fashion editor for several Belgian magazines and Niels was active in the arts and stage productions. We’re both very attracted to innovation and talent. We used to discover, direct, and communicate with interesting people and opening a space where these talents could meet was on our wish list for a long time. We were wearing some of the designers we represent today already and we had a hard time finding them at the time, so we wanted to bring them to our hometown.
^ Hunting and Collecting’s lower-level Project space.
Define the concept of Hunting and Collecting. Is it simply a means of encouraging consumerism or is the store more than that?
We encourage independent and quality culture, people with vision, with skills and using good materials. People who are not so busy trying to become a media group, but rather focus on their work. So, yes, we stimulate our customers to buy their products. It is more than consumerism, as we promote the timeless styles, the ones you can wear year after year, recombine, rediscover and reinvent. We need sales to be able to subsist, we are not state-funded or anything, we are a company, but we carefully select what we have in store.
Antwerp is often considered the undoubted Belgian fashion capital. As a Brussels-based boutique would you agree?
Yes. Antwerp is fashion-oriented, more outgoing and dressed-up than Brussels. Brussels is more sober, slower, deeper. Both towns have a great fashion school and great fashion designers have come from both cities. We chose Brussels as a base, as there is still more room for projects, and we thought that Brussels needed a place like Hunting and Collecting, it is the capital of Belgium and Europe, after all. We don’t think that you can divide the country into cities. It is more spread than that. Belgium is not France where everything happens in Paris or it doesn’t happen. Belgium is spread out. Belgians are not the early adopters, they don’t follow trends so much, they want to make up their own minds first and if they think it fits their lifestyle, then they will embrace it.
Hunting and Collecting comprises both a gallery space and retail space. Are the disciplines of fashion and art separable or interrelated, do you think?
As we said before, we sell culture, the world is not at all divided into ‘forms of art’, that is very last century. Today we communicate the way we do best and many ideas are remixed into something else, something new all the time, this is the era of collabs. We sell fashion designers, magazines. We work with visual artists, object designers, image makers, and many people we work with do more than one thing. We make and produce products – functional or not.
That is why we see our place more like a magazine or a multimedia application, we offer today’s good and best from our point of view and where people of that point of view come to hunt and collect the new, the timeless, the innovative, the durable, the tasteful.