Steph, born and raised in Kortrijk, studied fashion design at Antwerp’s renowned Royal Academy. Only a year after graduating she took the leap to launch her very own brand, Been, an original and playful take on sportswear. The quirky leggings, bathing suits and shirts are characterized by comfy cuts and colorful, eye-catching prints mainly based on fruits from bananas to watermelons, and have already found fans among musicians such as Twin Shadow and Kiddy Smile. We’ve had a nice little chat with the now Paris-based designer, who doesn’t take herself too seriously, a refreshing diversion from the at times strenuous fashion circus.
How did you get interested in fashion? Is it something you’ve already been into as a kid?
Yes, definitely. During my childhood I actually used to cut out all Chanel images that I could find in my parents’ magazines and collected them in a folder. WHich makes me wonder, where is this folder?! Would be nice to have a look at it again! I can’t really explain what fascinated me so much about it, but I was obsessed with Chanel, and still am today. I think it might have something to do with the logo. I’d love to work for them one day!
How and when did you realize you wanted to explore fashion professionally?
After a year of law school right after high school I realized that it was not for me, I started to explore new directions, and working in fashion seemed really exciting. It’s a good mix of different elements: you research, you draw, you make patterns, you stitch, take care of the styling, the shooting, finding a model,… I love all the different phases of the creative process. It’s very varied.
What made you take the leap to launch your own brand?
It all happened very naturally. I made some printed leggings in my final year at school and started wearing them. I immediately got very good reactions, and thought: why not commercialize them?
What have been the biggest challenges in doing that?
At one point you realize designing is only such a small part of the whole process. The real challenges are finding buyers, getting press, finding good factories, set the proper prices,… And then there is the paperwork, accountancy,… I would recommend to not just start by yourself, but with a partner you can trust and who can help you with all that. Luckily I partnered up with my brother, who takes care of the business side of things.
What have been your highlights so far?
When I was able to sell Been at Topshop and Opening Ceremony, that was an amazing feeling. I’m also grateful for all the wonderful people I’ve met and the friendships I made along the way.
How would you describe your brand? What are your inspirations?
I would describe it as fun active wear. Shape-wise I only go for basic models, practical clothing. All the creativity goes into the prints. Most of the time I get my inspiration by very simple things, and then try to put a twist on them. The most important thing is to have fun with it. I don’t take myself too seriously.
What are your tips for other young designers who are just starting out?
Attending a fashion school is a good start, but in my opinion it’s even more important to do internships in order to understand how a company works.
Where do you shop clothes yourself? Which stores in Belgium would you recommend to our readers?
Now that I’ve been living in Paris for the past five years, I don’t shop a lot in Belgium anymore. I really like Hunting and Collecting in Brussels, and if I happen to be in Belgium at the right time, I always try to make it to the stock sales in Antwerp.
Who are your favorite Belgian designers?
I like most of them because they all have a strong identity. But the most respect I have for Margiela, whom I’ve worked for for five years. He has had an immense influence on fashion and was so cutting-edge, now everyone is copying him.
What’s coming up for you in the next months?
For the moment I’m concentrating on my job in Paris. I’m designing jewelry for a high luxury brand. We will soon launch a new print for been, which will be available on the website only . We also decided to lower our prices a bit to make it more accessible.