Valérie Berckmans is undoubtedly one of the fixtures in the Dansaert neighborhood. Her timeless and durable collections have been on display in her boutique in the heart of Brussels for 16 years. She is also always present during the biannual Brussels Sales. A few weeks ago, Valérie announced that she will stop with her store in Rue de l'Artevelde. But that doesn't stop her from carrying on her sustainable vision of fashion.
We asked Valérie Berckmans how she sees the future of her label.
Can you briefly introduce yourself and your label Valérie Berckmans?
"I graduated as a fashion designer and started about 20 years ago. I launched the store in 2006, first with just a women's collection. My designs are quite minimalistic and timeless. Everything is made here in our ateliers in Brussels, in La Louvière and in Bordeaux, France. Furthermore, we try to work with sustainable fabrics as much as possible. We use organic cotton for 70% of our production. The rest of our creations are made with fabrics that are Oekotex certified or with upcycles and deadstock materials."
"In addition, I am also working on a zero waste project. All the leftovers from the ready-to-wear collections are all turned into new products. For example, with the leftovers we are making a lingerie collection with a bra, a body and 2 models of underpants for women. For men we have a boxer and for children we have a small collection with some basics. We also have washable make-up wipes and reusable sanitary pads. The idea behind this side project is to use all the waste from the collections until there is nothing left of the fabrics."
You have been participating in the Brussels Sales for several years, how important is the stocksale to you?
"My first participation in the Brussels Sales was in 2003. At the very beginning I didn't had the store yet and as a young designer it was a very good way to make yourself known. During the Sales I had the chance to meet a lot of customers and reach a wider audience. That was very helpful those first few years."
"Year after year, I meet new clients during Sales. It's also important that when your brand gets bigger, and you have a bigger stock, that you can sell it at lower prices. The Brussels Sales is not just a simple sale of clothes. It is a good springboard for young designers and also a good way for designers to get rid of our stock without having to cut the prices too much. Also because during the Sales the public is still willing to pay a certain price."
You announced a few weeks ago that you will stop your store in the Van Arteveldestraat, does that mean that your label Valérie Berckmans will also stop?
"I have been working for 20 years as a fashion designer now and it would be a great pity to stop now. But on the other hand, it has become difficult to continue working in the current structure. It's too heavy, too expensive and the worst is yet to come with the crisis. I don't think it's going to get any easier. So I have decided to sell my stock, close the store and go back to working on a smaller scale. So that I am also more flexible again and the workload is lighter, especially if the crisis would get worse. But I certainly don't want to be a victim. I remain very positive about the closure and see it as another stage of my life. I am now 46 years old and I also want to enjoy life a little more and not always experience stress."
"I enjoyed the store for more than 16 years. I was always enthusiastic, even though a boutique-atelier also brings new challenges and difficulties all the time. But when you are self-employed you always have to be creative and reinvent yourself. And this does get tiring after a while."
"In the future, I would like to work again a bit like I did in the beginning, with a studio at home. By now I do have a regular clientele and I want to continue with that but in a lighter way and with a smaller production. The current structure with the store, as well as the costs associated with it, that is no longer the future for me. I am busy with administration all day and the design part within the practice is only 5% for me. I didn't study to be an administrative officer. I want to free up more time to be creative again like with my zero waste projects. I will definitely keep that philosophy into the future."
What can visitors discover from you during the Brussels Sales?
"Normally we mainly sell prototypes and past collections during the Brussels Sales. But for this edition, we are also selling our new collection. Because it was immediately discounted, the collection goes is sold very quickly. But there are still pieces left. We are now giving a discount of minus 30% in November, minus 40% in December and minus 50% in January on the new collections. During the Sales, visitors can find a wide range of previous and new collections, both winter and summer collections. With discounts from minus 30% to minus 60%."
Until when will your store stay open and can people buy any of your creations?
"We will remain open until the end of January for now. The store is also currently for sale. But even if the place still wouldn't be sold, I will stop at the end of January. So until then, people can still visit the store. In addition, the E-shop will continue to exist."