Veronique Branquinho’s eponymous label was always less about lofty concept and more about “being”. Rising in the late 90s alongside other Belgian names such as AF Vandevorst and Xavier Delcour, Branquinho reached such heights that she had an exhibition dedicated to her at MoMu in Antwerp in 2008, titled Moi, VERONIQUE BRANQUINHO TOuTe NUe. Plaudits didn’t keep the wolf from the door after the financial crisis hit though, and she took a break from her own label after AW09, working as creative director of Belgian leathergoods house Delvaux for a period. After experiencing the desire to see her name sewn into the back of garments again, she is relaunching her womenswear line for SS13. It’s more “elegant” than before, but still with a tension of masculinity, a sharp black suit worn over a bare chest puncturing the season’s copper story. Perhaps the most appealing thing about Branquinho is her mindset – she makes desirable clothes that don’t overtake their wearer. Because people are complicated enough.
How does it feel to be back with your own label?
Veronique Branquinho: It feels good. I’m really happy because when I stopped three years ago, in 2009, I really was fed up with it, because it had been really difficult, too complex. It was good to have some distance. Then I did a lot of travelling and was busy working for other companies. But it’s not the same as doing your own thing. After two years, I started to miss doing my own collections. I’ve now got the chance with (Italian manufacturer) Gibo, so I’m a happy woman.
How was working at Delvaux?
Veronique Branquinho: It’s a beautiful company with really nice craftsmanship – I’ve always liked traditional craftsmanship. I learnt a lot of things, so it was good. But a bag cannot tell the same story as a whole collection.
Has fashion changed much since you were last at the helm of Veronique Branquinho?
Veronique Branquinho: The fashion world is always changing and evolving. I think the climate is still very careful, in general, but people still want to believe in fashion and dreams and you can feel the persistence of that wish, which is great.
What about the SS13 collection?
Veronique Branquinho: A collection for me starts with a mood or atmosphere. I wanted to show something energetic and clean, to start again with a blank canvas. To have a very clean, forward mood.
Copper is new for you...
Veronique Branquinho: Yes. I was very intrigued by natural materials, like copper, like the tigereye stone. Not like when you think about copper plates on the wall – that’s a bit old. But I like the material because it’s been left alone for a long time. Gold is beautiful, but has been abused for so long. I wanted to think about how I could translate it, and that’s where all the nudes and the tangerines came from.
Is the dichotomy of masculinity and femininity still important to you?
Veronique Branquinho: I’ve always been attracted to everything that is ambiguous. I really like the tension between masculinity and femininity. In my work it’s important to play with this, to take some references out of context and put them where you don’t expect them. You create an unexpected tension.
It’s reassuring to speak to someone who believes in the importance of the complexity of her client. Fashion can be very literal sometimes.
Veronique Branquinho: I don’t like it when the theme of the collection becomes anecdotal. I like it to feel much more complex, with a lot of layers, because that’s how I am as a woman. This is what I find attractive and what I want to try and put in my work.
Has your label grown up?
Veronique Branquinho: In terms of style philosophy, ‘grownup’ is a word that can be used. I was thinking about the context of my quote from 1999 (‘I like this black side of people. Black minds, black moods, black clothes: I like the word and I like the emotion. That’s what I try to reflect. It’s romance for the doom generation’). Dark moods are part of every woman – and I’m still in touch with this layer. That’s where you can see it; it’s all about evolution of me, as a designer and of the spirit of the time.
Do you have any recurring Influences?
Veronique Branquinho: Not at the moment. In the beginning I took quite literal meanings from influences, and they follow you for a long time. I’m still attracted to those things but it’s maybe not so obvious.
How did you get into fashion?
Veronique Branquinho: I was young, 14 or 15 years old. I discovered this Belgian magazine which doesn’t exist any more, Made
in Belgium, and there was sometimes an extra magazine with it called BAM (‘Belgian Avant-Garde Fashion’). It was made by young designers and students from the Academy in Antwerp, which at the time in the 80s was the Antwerp Six: Dirk Van Saene, Dries Van Noten, Marina Yee... I saw it and fashion appealed to me for the first time as a form of expression. This was the era of Mugler and Montana: you saw fashion on television and in magazines, but it was a far-away world. Along came this Belgian fashion, and I thought, ‘I understand this. This is close to me and this is something I would like to do, expressing myself through this medium.’ I then decided to go to art school.
What’s great about Belgium?
Veronique Branquinho: Well, my social life is in Antwerp. It’s really a village but it has the vanity of a cosmopolitan city. Which is great. You find a lot of stuff and influences, but at the same time, it’s quite small. Everybody is so busy with so many things, but when you meet each other it’s very creative.
Do you collect anything?
Veronique Branquinho: I try not to be attached to material things. But recently I’ve been very interested in modernist bracelets.
Is that something you’d like to develop as part of your own line?
Veronique Branquinho: Yeah, I’ve been experimenting. I made some with a Belgian jewellery designer and it was a nice experience.
In the past you’ve spoken about the allure of Jacques Dutronc and being a fan of the original Porsche 911. What are you driving these days?
Veronique Branquinho: I was so sad. I crashed that car about five years ago or so. It was a busy moment so I chose a solid replacement. I can’t say anything bad about my big Swedish car but it’s really not the same. It’s stupid, but it would be nice to have an extra one to cherish. The 911 is a classic and I’d like to have something vintage that’s not so established. Like a Toyota Supra or something. (laughs) That would be great.
Tell us something we wouldn’t expect of you...
Veronique Branquinho: I tend to believe that you can expect anything of me. I like the idea that I’m a free person and I can do whatever I want. I also like to have some mystery in my life and around my person. I like to have the liberty of surprising people. What are your ambitions for the label? Would you like to start menswear again, or have a store? For now, it’s important to develop the women’s collection. We have some ambitions to develop the bags and a pre-collection. I hope one day I can do men, because I really enjoyed it. When the women’s is going well, we can think about that.
What do you do in your spare time?
Veronique Branquinho: I like to go out into my garden and look for mushrooms. (laughs) Really experimenting. Sometimes I can define them, but sometimes I’m scared to take the risk and wonder, ‘Should I cook this?’
Make-Up Inge Grognard at Jed Root