Insider: Inge Grognard

Uncovering the make-up artist who shaped the anti-fashion aesthetic of Belgium's new wave

Fashion Q+A
Inge Grognard
Martin Margiela - AW92-93 Photography by Ronald Stoops, make-up by Inge Grognard

The ‘Antwerp Six’ heralded the breakthrough of Belgian fashion when they brought their distinctly anarchist vision to London Fashion Week in 1986. Instrumental to the projection of this vision, in shows and still images, were husband and wife duo, photographer Ronald Stoops and make-up artist Inge Grognard.

From a country with little fashion industry to speak of before that time, came Walter Van Beirendonck, Ann Demeulemeester and Dries Van Noten – Martin Margiela came later, an old friend of Grognard’s. Together they reinterpreted fashion, within the freedom of eighties fashion-less Belgium.

Here, alongside a selection of early images by her husband and her work from the pages of Dazed & Confused, Grognard muses on the early infamous days, the new wave of Belgian talent, and her life-long collaborators.

Dazed Digital: When did you first start collaborating with the ‘Antwerp Six’ designers, and Martin Margiela?

Inge Grognard: In a way I started working with them before they even graduated. I’ve known Martin Margiela since I was 14 years old and he was a very good friend of mine, so the moment he went to the Academy [Royal Academy of Fine Arts, Antwerp], we began working on photo shoots. But then they graduated, and I really started to work with them. We went to London [in 1986], and then there was a thing that happened in Florence…oh it was such a long time ago. I worked for all of them.

We were experimenting. [Each designer] had their own style, but it was not so pronounced like it is now. We still had to search; at that time I had to do also the hair, because in Belgium separate make-up artists and hair didn’t exist! We had to learn everything.

For me, it was a very emotional moment - it was the end of twenty years of Martin Margiela. Nobody knew, but I knew - even though he didn’t tell me - it was his last show. It was very emotional, but also very beautiful. I did 40 seasons with him, 20 years, so it’s a long time.

DD: What were your influences and inspirations at that time?

Inge Grognard: We were looking abroad of course, because all the magazines you could find [were from abroad.] We had Blitz magazine, we had The Face, and all those things we went through, it was like food, food for our souls. They were well formed already at the Academy; they knew how they could do their research. I learned a lot off them, to go to bookshops, to see movies, to go to concerts. All of those things influenced us. And then the thing that we always wanted to do is not do what we already saw, but to try to find something newer, something else. What we always wanted to do is to make it from ourselves.

DD: If a ‘fashion’ industry didn’t exist in Belgium before your collaborations with the Antwerp Six, what inspired you to become a make up artist in the first place?

Inge Grognard: I was really interested in clothes when I was eight or nine years old, but it’s not that I was brought up in a family that was fashion minded, not at all. Culture, yes: classic music, art and all those things – just not fashion. But I had kind of a nose. When I went shopping with my mother, even though I didn’t realise the prices, I always chose the most expensive [clothes]. I didn’t want to be dressed like everybody else. I just didn’t want to be like all the other people in my school.

I did not want to go to the Academy, because I didn’t feel like becoming a painter and I didn’t want to be a fashion designer either because my drawing was not strong enough I thought. I was really interested by the face, body and all those things you could do with that. I went to a beauty school, but I never assisted people in make up, like all those people do now. They assist a big name and they become also a big name, but at the moment I started it didn’t exist. Not, of course, in Belgium.

DD: Do you think it is possible to recreate that movement that happened in the early eighties today, in Belgium again or elsewhere in the world?

Inge Grognard: No, it’s not possible. Times change. Already the pleasure we had to go to London, to go to Paris, and to find bookshops, and find books that didn’t exist here in Belgium, already that kind of pleasure it’s not there anymore because you just Google. We had so much fun with that, but now you just push the button on your computer and you find images and articles; you find everything.

I am going online now, but I have lots of books. It’s the only thing I really invested in. Sometimes when I find a book and it’s difficult to find, I still buy it because for me that is the most interesting thing. I still go into my library and the books I bought nearly 30 years ago, I’m still reading them. 

DD: You have collaborated with your husband, photographer Ronald Stoops, for your entire career. How do you inspire each other?

Inge Grognard: It’s two worlds: we grew up in our work together. My work  comes out best with him, always. But maybe also because I can do little manipulations… When you work with a photographer, you do the job, then you go home and he can do whatever he wants with the picture. But with Ronald…I’m a control freak, he’s a control freak and I think that’s great, it works really well.

I really love to work with people I know already a long time. It’s not about inspiration: you speak and do a lot of brainstorming, and that’s the way we always work. Even when we work together with artists, it’s ‘this idea, this idea’, and then it starts working in your head. It’s never, ‘this song was my inspiration’. It’s a stomach feeling, the feeling I feel with the people I work with.

DD: Peter de Potter wrote the intro to your first book, Make Up, in 1998. What did you think of his words?

Inge Grognard: It was me! The way he wrote, I recognised myself in it, that was the most important thing. He knows what I want to say with my work. Some people are scared by the work but it’s very poetic sometimes; it’s dark but it’s poetic. Peter is an incredible person, he’s a very good writer. I knew him from the Academy, like all the other people I know. His articles were all so good, so critical, that I thought about him putting the right words in my first book.

DD: What do you like about collaborating with Robbie Spencer for the pages of Dazed & Confused?

Inge Grognard: I always looking forward to working with Robbie. He is an amazing stylist, more than a stylist. I met him on another job, a long time ago in Paris. He’s very talented I think, he’s sensitive and he has a very good eye. He’s not scared to try out things and he’s very honest. When he doesn’t like a thing, he can say it, and I love that.

DD: What is you greatest fashion memory from your career so far?

For me, it was a very emotional moment - it was the end of twenty years of Martin Margiela. Nobody knew, but I knew - even though he didn’t tell me - it was his last show. It was very emotional, but also very beautiful. I did 40 seasons with him, 20 years, so it’s a long time.

DD: What are you looking forward to next?

Inge Grognard: I just want to continue doing good things. Also, what I really love is consulting and helping people out. I think it’s my duty: I had the opportunity to work with so many amazing people, to do what I really wanted to do, and you have to pass that through. What I love the most is when you read blogs and you really can inspire people; not to be scared, to do what they have in mind, what they really feel, what they have to do. 

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