Bruno Pieters is a Belgian fashion designer and art director highly regarded for his avant-garde creations and sharp tailoring. In 2012, after a two-year sabbatical from the fashion industry, he launched Honest by.Bruno Pieters was born in Bruges, Belgium in June 17, 1975. He trained at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, graduating with a BA in Fashion Design in 1999. Pieters developed his craft working with designers including Martin Margiela, Thimister and Christian Lacroix in Paris, as well as Antonio Pernas in Madrid. In July 2001, he presented his first couture collection during Paris Fashion Week.
The next year, Pieters debuted his ready-to-wear collection. Exhibiting both mens and womens collections in Paris, Pieters soon became a critic’s favourite. Suzy Menkes, legendary editor for the International Herald Tribune, described the designer as “an intriguing new talent”. Pieters was also a winner of several awards, including the Swiss Textile Award in 2006, the Andam Award from the Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent Foundation in 1997, and the Elle Style Award in 2008. His designs can be best described as architectural, highlighted by intricate tailoring and construction lines. Style.com described the “beauty of the clean, precise lines of Pieters’ tailoring” to be a result of his “real devotion to craft”.
In 2005, Pieters was named creative director of the men’s line at the Belgian brand Delvaux, Europe’s oldest leather goods company – a role which he held until 2009. In June 2007 Pieters was established as art director for the avant-garde line Hugo by Hugo Boss, beginning a
successful three-year collaboration. In addition, Pieters continued to expand his own label, launching eyewear and homewear. However, in February 2011, he decided to announce the retirement of his own label. Pieters gave a significant part of his archive to the Momu Fashion
Museum of Antwerp, while selling much of the rest and donating the funds to SISP, a children’s charity in Southern India. He passed his sabbatical travelling in India, but found time to work on a collaboration with the brand Weekday, owned by Swedish group H&M.
His experiences in India had a radical affect on his outlook on life. He became increasingly concerned for the environment, animal welfare, and children’s causes. In January 2012, Pieters returned to the fashion stage with a new concept and brand. An entrepreneur as well as a designer, Pieters is creating a new model for the fashion industry, and for other industries worldwide. Honest by is the first company in the World to offer price transparency to their customer and to make their entire supply chain public.
Read Kiera Kelly's interview with Bruno Pieters here.
AFTER A TWO YEAR BREAK FROM THE FASHION INDUSTRY, RENOWNED DESIGNER BRUNO PIETERS HAS LAUNCHED AN INNOVATIVE AND TRANSPARENT ONLINE STORE SUITABLY ENTITLED HONEST BY.
THE AWARD WINNING PIETERS, WHOSE CREATIVE DIRECTOR POSTS HAVE INCLUDED THAT AT HIS OWN LABEL AS WELL AS VARIOUS INTERNATIONAL BRANDS, IS BEST KNOWN FOR HIS UNIQUE TAILORING AND CLEAN SILHOUETTES. HIS NEW PROJECT IS A REFLECTION OF HIS OWN ETHICS, AND IS SET TO SHAKE UP THE TRADITIONAL MODEL OF THE FASHION INDUSTRY. I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO CATCH UP WITH PIETERS AFTER THE LAUNCH OF HONEST BY FOR AN IN DEPTH CONVERSATION.
photograph by Mathieu Cesar for Smug Magazine
KK: BRUNO, IT'S GREAT TO HAVE YOU BACK! I GUESS THE QUESTION ON EVERYONES LIPS IS WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN DOING DURING THE TWO YEAR BREAK YOU TOOK FROM THE FASHION INDUSTRY?
BP: I took some time off to travel the world. It was important for me to have a break, take some time to get to know myself again, whilst reflecting and enjoying my life. In 2011 I felt I was ready to start something new. Honest by is very different from anything that I have ever done. It has been an incredible journey and for the first time in my life, I can say that I truly love, and believe in what I am doing.
KK: HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE THE HONEST BY CONCEPT?
BP: Honest by is the first company in the world to share the full cost breakdown of its products.The word Honest refers to the way in which the honest by online retail store operates, with an 100% transparency policy. The concept behind Honest by offers designers a public platform to share their own design processes; utilizing the extensive research honest by has already conducted on organic fabrics and suppliers. We communicate everything about the materials, the manufacturing methods, and even the pricing strategies of the products stocked with honest by, to our client. Every part of the collaboration process is transparent including the store mark up calculations. We also invite different designers and brands to create 'Green' items or collections for honest by. All collections are then exclusively sold via the Honest by online store. I think that makes Honest by very unique and fun!
KK: I COULDN’T HELP BUT NOTICE ON THE HONEST BY WEBSITE THAT CLIENTS ARE FIRST GREETED WITH THE QUESTION OF COLOUR, AND ARE PROMPTED TO CHOOSE WHAT COLOUR THEY WOULD MOST LIKE TO BROWSE THROUGH. WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION BEHIND THIS?
BP: There are two pages of colours you can choose from, a page with bright colours, and another with pastels. We designed the site like this to make shopping a bit more interactive, customer friendly and personal.
KK: YOUR COLLECTION IS THE FIRST OF THE HONEST BY COLLECTIVES TO BE OFFERED. WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND HONEST BY BRUNO PIETERS?
BP: The Honest by Bruno Pieters collection is a reinvention of certain iconic pieces that fascinate me such as the trench coat, the bomber jacket, and jeans. From here items were deconstructed, then reconstructed to create different garments. To get this result, I worked closely with a designer friend of mine, Glenn Martens, which was great.
Last year we worked together on some projects, and we both loved the journey and final look. I guess you could describe the Honest by designs as neo-classic hybrids.
KK: WHO WILL BE THE NEXT DESIGNER FOR HONEST BY?
BP: We cannot reveal the designers name at the moment. We will announce her name when her collection for Honest by launches online on April 5th 2012. We like to keep our audiences guessing.
KK: WHO IS CURATING THE PROJECT?
BP: I’m curating the project at the moment. But i would love to have guest curators soon. We have so many amazing designers coming up. Some are regulars, world renowned designers that show at Paris Fashion Week; whilst others have only just launched their own labels a few seasons ago. I feel so humbled that they have all accepted the invitation to collaborate with Honest by.
KK: WHY DID YOU ASK OTHER DESIGNERS TO PARTICIPATE? WHY NOT JUST HAVE HONEST BY BRUNO PIETERS?
BP: Honest by might also appeal to people who do not necessarily like the Bruno Pieters aesthetic. We would like to offer our clients a variety of looks and styles. For instance the next designer will offer totally different styes and looks to my own. It could reach a completely new audience. We don’t want to exclude anybody!
KK: HOW DID YOU APPROACH COLLABORATING WITH OTHER DESIGNERS AND BRANDS, AND WHAT WAS THEIR REACTION TO THIS NEW FASHION MODEL?
BP: My assistant and I met them in their showrooms in Paris. We showed them the brief, and explained the concept. We work just like any other buyer. Most designers accept the invitation and show great enthusiasm for the concept, as there is so much unclarity and speculation right now about how and where clothes are made.
KK: WILL THE DESIGNERS BE DESIGNING CAPSULE COLLECTIONS FOR HONEST BY, OR WILL THE COLLABORATIONS CONTINUE FOR SEVERAL SEASONS?
BP: We would love them to continue. The idea is that the designers bring out new pieces every season or every few months. We have a no sale policy, so basically they will always be adding new items to their collection. But Honest by will also offer other collections from organic brands around the world.
KK: SUSTAINABLE AND CERTIFIED ORGANIC FABRICS ARE THE CORNER STONE OF THIS COLLECTION. CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE MORE ABOUT THE MATERIALS, AND THE CONCLUSIONS OF YOUR RESEARCH?
BP: Organic means that a natural product has been produced without any artificial fertilisers, pesticides or hormones. The raw materials of organic fabrics have been grown without chemicals, which is in my opinion better for the environment. Organic fabrics have changed a lot in the past decade. They don’t look like they used to. Now, you can basically find anything you want. Of course there are still some limitations, but I think as the demand grows, supply will too. Some suppliers are very passionate about this new evolution in fashion, and are developing incredible textiles. The Honest by Bruno Pieters collection is almost entirely made out of organic fabrics. We also encourage the brands and designers we invite to utilize the extensive research we have put together on organic fabrics and production processes. We've conducted a year long research on sustainable fabrics and supplies, so i believe we will be able to help everyone find what they need for their own Honest by collaboration.
KK: WITH THE INCREASE OF SUSTAINABLE PRODUCTS ON THE MARKET, WHY DO THE STANDARDS VARY FROM COUNTRY TO COUNTRY? HOW DO WE KNOW THAT THE ITEM WE HAVE PURCHASED IS TRULY ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY?
BP: The laws and regulations are indeed different in almost every country at the moment. This is why i've used fabrics that have certificates that are recognised worldwide for the Honest by Bruno Pieters collection. On the honest by website, we also explain the meaning of each certificate designers work with in our ‘Material Information’ section. For the Honest by Bruno Pieters collection I've worked with materials that have an IVN, GOTS, JOCA, Oeko-tex or SACL certificate. GOTS is one of the best organic certificates in the world. Oeko-tex is also interesting because it is all about skin wellbeing. I hope our clients will read them in order to know what they’re buying.
KK: SOME PEOPLE ARE WARY OF ORGANIC PRODUCTS, AND EVEN QUESTION THE CLAIMS THAT ‘ORGANIC’ IS MUCH BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THESE STATEMENTS?
BP: There is a lot of debate going on at the moment regarding whether organic materials are better or not for our environment. For me it’s not about what’s better or not. I believe there is no right or wrong in this world, only choices made. It’s about finding new solutions and alternatives to an industrial system which, in my opinion, doesn’t seem to be in our best interest or that of the environment.
KK: YOU HAVE MADE A VEGAN VERSION OF ALMOST EVERY GARMENT. IS VEGAN A REFLECTION OF YOUR LIFESTYLE CHOICE?
BP: I am a vegetarian, not a vegan. We offer vegan styles for everyone who wants to wear clothes that are free of any animal involvement in the production process. This is something that I want to develop further in the upcoming Honest by Bruno Pieters collections because it’s not easy to find organic vegan clothing. We don't demand this from the designers we work with though. However, we will never stock leather or fur products.
KK: IN THE LUXURY MARKET, WOOL, SILK AND LEATHER ARE GENERAL STAPLES IN A COLLECTION. HOW DO YOU CREATE SUCH A COLLECTION WITHOUT USING THESE MATERIALS?
BP: I do not see the luxury in using animal products. For the Honest by Bruno Pieters collection there are still some pieces containing wool and silk. The wool is either recycled, organic or from countries such as the UK where mulesing is not practiced. The silk chiffon we used is organic. We didn’t use peace silk, which is silk processed from cocoons without killing the pupae inside, because we couldn’t find anything to match the quality we required. I would love to find an organic peace silk. We only found either organic silk or peace silk but not both.
KK: IN YOUR PREVIOUS COLLECTIONS, YOU HAVE USED FUR, LEATHER, HORN AND SHELL BUTTONS. WHAT MADE YOU REVERSE YOUR DECISION IN USING THESE MATERIALS THIS TIME AROUND?
BP: Yes I did, and I still regret it today. I think I had convinced myself that it was okay to do that, but the child that lives on inside of me for some reason woke me up. I remembered that I actually love and even admire other life forms. When I started this project one of the first things I decided was to avoid animal products, and it turned out not to be too difficult in the end. There is no need to involve animals in our industries, as we can do very well without them. I think killing animals for human purposes is something that no longer fits within this modern worlds ideals. But, everyone is entitled to their own beliefs. We
should just always follow our personal intuition.
KK: SHOULD THE CONCEPT BE SUCCESSFUL, 20% OF THE COMPANY’S PROFIT WILL BE DONATED TO CHARITY. EVERY INVITED DESIGNER CAN CHOOSE THE DESTINATION OF THESE PROCEEDS. WHICH CAUSE HAVE YOU DECIDED TO DONATE TO?
BP: If the Honest by Bruno Pieters collection does make a profit, we will donate these earnings to Sebastian Indian Social Projects (SISP.) It’s a children’s charity in the South of India I visited two years ago. They are doing an amazing job in educating children. I believe education is crucial for us to be able to evolve and become more aware of our choices and the consequences of those choices.
KK: CAN YOU FORSEE AN HONEST BY ACCESSORY LINE IN THE FUTURE?
BP: Yes, we have already invited some accessory designers to take part in future projects. I would also love to design vegan shoes for another Honest by Bruno Pieters collection because the shoes we used in the photo shoot for this collection are sourced from our stylist in Paris.
KK: THE MARK-UP STRATEGY WILL IMPLEMENT A STANDARD IN FASHION AND RETAIL. FOR WHOLESALE YOU USED A 2.0 MARK-UP, AND FOR RETAIL 2.6. FOR THE FIRST HONEST BY BRUNO PIETERS COLLECTION YOU WILL OPERATE ON A 2.0 RETAIL MARK-UP. ARE ALL COSTS COVERED WITH THESE CALCULATIONS?
BP: For the first collection I think it is possible to recover the costs if Honest by Bruno Pieters sells very well. Developing a collection is an extremely expensive process.
KK: DO YOU THINK TRANSPARENCY CAN BE THE NEW LUXURY?
BP: I’m not sure what luxury means today. Luxury has become a very vague concept I think. Transparency is not a luxury to me, but rather a necessity. There is a lot of unclarity at the moment. No one really knows what they are buying. There have been too many scandals and rumors, it's time to set the record straight. Honest by wants to present as a public platform where designers and brands all over the world, who believe in the same philosophy as honest by, can share their own processes.
KK: AT THE MOMENT, SOME BRANDS ARE CLAIMING ‘MADE IN EUROPE’ EVEN IF PART OF THE PRODUCTION WAS DONE IN ASIA. WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON THESE LAWS, AND DO THEY NEED TO CHANGE ?
BP: This is something that I still have a lot of trouble with. I was so disappointed when I discovered that the ‘luxury’ travel bag I bought was not made in Italy, but made in China and only finished and packaged in Italy.. even though I had paid for a bag I believed to be made in Italy.
But i've been in this industry for over a decade now and I do know there are still a lot of brands producing in Europe. The public just doesn't know who to believe anymore. Honest by is an opportunity for designers, brands and retailers to share information with the public about their products. Because many people have the feeling they don't really know anymore what they are buying or investing in. For me buying is like voting. With every single purchase we make we are approving and accepting the way that product is made. Shopping more consciously might have a bigger and more durable impact on this planet than anything else.
KK: WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON THE FASHION INDUSTRY TODAY?
BP: A lot of things are changing because we are all facing new challenges. It’s a very exciting time for fashion right now. Also our consciousness is evolving, I think we are realising the way we live, shop, design and produce can be done in a more sustainable way.
KK: HONEST BY COLLECTIONS ARE CURRENTLY EXCLUSIVELY AVAILABLE ONLINE, CAN YOU SEE THE DISTRIBUTION CHANNELS CHANGING IN THE FUTURE?
BP: We decided to sell exclusively online for the moment because we thought it would be rather challenging to find partners who would be prepared to accept the concept from the start. In the future it could be interesting to team up with other retailers or department stores. But i like to take things slowly and let people get used to the idea first.
KK: AT THE MOMENT, HONEST BY ONLY OFFERS 20 PIECES OF EACH GARMENT. IS THE IDEA OF LIMITED EDITIONS PART OF THE HONEST BY CONCEPT ?
BP: For the Honest by Bruno Pieters collection it is, because we didn’t want to overproduce and have too much stock. But in the future the quantities will grow according to the demand.
KK: UNTIL THE END OF JUNE 2012 YOU WILL GIVE PERSONAL STYLE ADVICE TO YOUR CUSTOMERS. WHAT IS YOUR REASON FOR THIS DECISION?
BP: I want to help people with their selection because I think online shopping can sometimes be very confusing. Also sometimes people buy things they don’t really understand, so I want to explain the design to them if need be. For instance, we have items in the collection that look like coats but they should be worn more as a cardigan. I want to make sure people are happy with their purchases and understand the design. They can ask me anything about the garment, how the fabric feels, how the garment is finished, if it’s suitable for a cocktail party, cold temperatures etc.
KK: WHAT’S INSTORE FOR THE FUTURE OF HONEST BY?
BP: There are many things! We will continue to increase the range of products. We hope that the Honest by concept can be applied to many kinds of products, not just clothes.
KK: WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY TODAY?
BP: Be the change you want to see in the world. It's a quote from Mahatma Gandhi.
KK: WE’RE AT THE END OF THE INTERVIEW, IS THERE ANYTHING FURTHER THAT YOU WISH TO SAY TO OUR AUDIENCE?
BP: Enjoy the opportunity!
KK: BRUNO PIETERS, THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIME, AND INSIGHT, IT HAS BEEN A JOY.
BP: Thank you.
Kiera Kelly is a fashion journalist and stylist who works between Paris and London. Kiera has contributed to magazines and websites such as Un Nouveau iDEAL, BlancFactory, Sunday Times ‘Style’, ShowStudio, Spectrum and works on independent art and fashion projects.