On June 6, Bjorn Ghyselen launches his sustainable handbag brand Peterselie. For the development of his brand strategy and entrepreneurial skills, he was supported by MAD Brussels during five business sessions with our business advisor Peggy Acke. MAD spoke with Bjorn about his experiences as a starting entrepreneur in the Brussels fashion sector.
You are launching your first unisex handbag brand, where did this idea come from?
"My idea to design unisex handbags, under the label Peterselie, came about at the beginning of last year. Handbag brands still focus exclusively on women too often, while I notice that more and more people are interested in gender-neutral items. It is remarkable that some bags are considered feminine while a handbag is nothing more or less than an object in which you can put your belongings. So, what difference does it make whether a man or a woman wears it? As the first bag of my collection, I chose a leather tote bag. This was a perfect model for me to start with, as the model already has a gender- neutral connotation."
"In addition, Peterselie wants to break with the stereotype of handbag brands. We are moving away from typical handbag campaigns that focus on career women. What about the people who feel pressure to meet those sky-high expectations of society to be ambitious and successful? peterselie wants to show that it doesn't have to be that way."
To make your bags, you use only deadstock leather. Why did you make this choice?
"In Italy, there are several depots that have a huge stock of leftover fabrics, including leather. Instead of making something brand new, I wanted to make use of everything we have lying around. The intention is to use the surplus from the fashion industry and thus help to reduce this heap of waste. This also means that every bag is unique because each one is made from a different fabric. The same models can be ordered again, only the leather will be different each time. The fabrics used are bought in Marche, Italy, where everything is also handmade by a small family business. Thus, it is a very small production cycle.
"There is also a sustainability factor in the unisex story, as we only produce one collection for both women and men. In addition, we do not produce seasonal collections. We start with one handbag and expand our collection bag by bag with timeless designs."
For the launch of your brand, you received support from MAD Brussels through several coaching sessions with our business advisor Peggy Acke. To what extent did this help you?
"The support helped me enormously. The sessions at MAD Brussels were always valuable moments of reflection. Every time I had an appointment, I had to put everything in order that I had done in the past weeks. I put my thoughts in order and together with expert Peggy Acke I looked at what I had achieved and what still needed to be done. Talking to someone who has a lot of expertise and understands your challenges is a huge help. I was given different tools with which I could continue my work and my attention was drawn to the different pitfalls."
"Since I am doing this project all by myself, finding people you can and want to work with is very difficult. Peggy Acke was a support throughout my process. It is a great help to have someone by your side who understands the industry, someone with whom you can talk in detail about the business idea and the work process. MAD Brussels also put me in touch with my product developer, Margherita Caccavella, who helped me find a producer in Italy."
You have a strong connection with Brussels, your products are designed here, does this have something to do with the choice of the name peterselie?
"Brussels is very important to me; it is in this city that I got to know myself and dared to be myself. This city is the perfect breeding ground to start a brand like peterselie, a source of creativity and inspiration. The choice of the name peterselie does not really have anything to do with Brussels, but without Brussels my label would never have existed. It is a city where everything is possible. Brussels is very straight forward, and that's how I want peterselie to be seen: honest, raw, no pretence but with an edge."