CONSCIOUS RETAIL.

CONSCIOUS RETAIL.

HONEST BY IS NOW ALSO AVAILABLE AT STIJL'S HALELUJA. HALELUJA IS LOCATED IN THE HEART OF BRUSSELS AND IS SONJA NOEL'S FIRST LUXURY STORE THAT SELLS EXCLUSIVE AND SUSTAINABLE COLLECTIONS.
SONJA NOEL IS THE PRESIDENT OF MODO BRUXELLAE AND HAS BEEN A PIONEER WITHIN THE RETAIL INDUSTRY FOR OVER TWO DECADES. SHE WAS ONE OF THE FIRST BUYERS WHO BELIEVED IN SUCH TALENTS AS DRIES VAN NOTEN AND ANN DEMEULEMEESTER. READ MY INTERVIEW WITH SONJA NOEL HERE BELOW.

By Bruno Pieters
 
 

BP: YOU HAVE BEEN WORKING IN RETAIL FOR OVER TWO DECADES NOW. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THE FASHION INDUSTRY TODAY?
SN: Fashion is an extensive and ever growing business. You require a strong identity in order to survive amongst the 'big' players. At the moment, there are quite a lot of young designers who are in the process of launching their own collections without really having found or identified a niche market. In these times most people go for known and established brands, rather than independent designers.

BP: WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO GO INTO RETAIL, IS THIS SOMETHING YOU HAVE ALWAYS WANTED TO DO?
SN: I fell into the fashion industry completely by accident. During my studies I met a Swiss girl who had a boutique in Lausanne. This was in many ways, my introduction to the world of fashion. It was her lifestyle, independence and her overall admiration for fashion that I admired. It was inspiring to say the least.

BP: WHAT WERE YOU DOING PRIOR TO THE OPENING OF YOUR FIRST STORE 'STIJL'?
SN: I was studying Art History at the University of Brussels. During the holidays I would work in boutiques.

BP: WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT FASHION?
SN: I love the diversity within the fashion world. Through my work I have the opportunity of seeing many men's wear and women's wear collections every year, ranging from established designers to up and coming designers. I'm a curious person and I always look forward to discovering new talent. However, I enjoy the retail aspect of fashion above all. Reinventing the store and its space every season, making new product selections, working together with my staff in the shop, and the teamwork is what I enjoy most. We have a very close connection with our clients, as we style every single person who goes into the dressing room. I love doing this. I am very passionate about my work.

BP: WHICH DESIGNERS DID YOU START OUT WITH, AND HOW MANY BRANDS DO YOU SELL AT THE MOMENT?
SN: I opened Stijl in September 1984. The store is a beautiful minimal space and the very first shop in the Rue Antoine Dansaert in Brussels, which is now a very famous and fashionable street. Originally I started out stocking young Swiss collections such as A Propos, and of course also Belgian designers such as Marina Yee, Dirk Van Saene & Dirk Bikkembergs. Many more Belgian designers came shortly after that; Dries Van Noten, Ann Demeulemeester and Martin Margiela. And in Italy I discovered Helmut Lang and Romeo Gigli. I have always been drawn to designers that had a strong identity... and Belgian designers definitely have that. Currently, we have more than 25 collections on sale in our stores.

BP: WHICH NEW BRAND DO YOU THINK HAS THE MOST POTENTIAL IN 2012?
SN: Honest by Bruno Pieters is the line I have been waiting for.

BP: WHY WAS IT IMPORTANT FOR YOU TO OPEN A STORE LIKE 'HALELUJA'?
SN: Thinking green is something that has become so obvious in today's society as far as I'm concerned. Whether it's in the domain of food, architecture or transport... I discovered that in cities such as London, Copenhagen and Berlin, young designers are very forward thinking and are already incorporating green ideals into their collections. Being a retailer, I find it my duty to invest in those new ideas.

BP: DO YOU THINK ONE DAY ALL FASHION HOUSES WILL WORK WITH SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS?
SN: I believe that a good designer should embody a vision for the future within their work and thus, be concerned about the materials they use and how their products are being manufactured.

BP: WHAT DO YOU THINK CAN MAKE THIS HAPPEN?
SN: If clients start to demand it, it will happen soon. In the shop I see more and more people reading the care and origin labels inside the garments to understand the material and to be aware of where it has been made.

BP: WHEN DID YOU BECOME CONCERNED ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT WE LIVE IN?
SN: I have been concerned about the environment, ever since I was a child. I remember being very concerned about the big construction sites within the area I lived, destroying the forests near my house. Furthermore, I have always been against the use of pesticides. These experiences I had as a child acted as a foundation for my opinions on sustainability today.

BP: WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT THE CONCEPT OF HONEST BY?
SN: I have always followed Bruno Pieters' work. He is a great designer. For Honest by he created a selection of beautiful pieces that you want to have in your wardrobe. These pieces are essentials that stand out on their own as individual pieces, they don't need any further styling. Generally, most other designer collections need a lot of styling (and a lot of additional items to create a complete look). Also, I love that the fabrics in Bruno Pieters' Honest by collection are organic. This is a new movement in Fashion. And his work as curator for Honest by is impressively innovative.

BP: WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ITEM FOR WOMEN AND MEN IN THE HONEST BY BRUNO PIETERS COLLECTION?
SN: I like the new (large) proportions of the mens trousers, and the strong sense of masculinity.

BP: DO YOU WEAR ANY OF THE PIECES YOURSELF? WHICH ONES?
SN: My favourite pieces are the high waisted skirt in black organic wool combined with the short white shirt or with the black tank-top made out of organic cotton, I love this look.

BP: THE COLLECTION YOU PURCHASED IS THE BRUNO PIETERS COLLECTION FOR HONEST BY, WILL YOU ALSO BE SELLING OUR UPCOMING DESIGNERS?
SN: Yes.

BP: HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE A 'STYLISH' WOMAN OR MAN?
SN: A stylish woman or man to me is someone who dresses with character; a person whose clothing choice reflects their own personality.

BP: YOU ARE KNOWN TO BE ONE OF THE HARDEST WORKING WOMEN IN THE INDUSTRY, WHAT DRIVES YOU?
SN: The challenge to make someone beautiful.

 

Stijl Haleluja
Nieuwe Graanmarkt 6
1000 Brussel
T +32 2 513 42 50
info@haleluja.be