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La Cambre Winner: Zoë Vermeire

The Belgian graduate impressed Raf Simons, Serge Leblon and Diane Pernet enough to win first prize at the fashion school's annual award ceremony

With five prizes under her belt - including the Brussels Export and Dior awards - 23-year-old Zoë Vermeire won rave reviews at La Cambre's graduation show. The Belgian school is renowned for pushing innovative work and nurturing new talent, such as former graduate Léa Peckre who won the L'Oréal Professional Grand Prize at Festival d'Hyères last month.

Vermeire, a smiling and shy Ghent native, impressed a jury of international standing, including Raf Simons, Manish Arora, Serge Leblon and Diane Pernet. Inspired by the dignity of queens and empowering clothes, she showed beautifully tailored coats with an oversized fit, focusing on a restrained palette of reds, greys and cream. Her collection was sensual, coherent and seductive at the same time. We met with the somewhat shocked and excited graduate straight after the prize giving ceremony.

Dazed Digital: What were your inspirations for this collection?
Zoë Vermeire:
I was looking at queens and this notion of royal elegance, which I was keen on exploring. I wanted my women to look strong, confident and dignified. I decided to work on oversized coats, which were belted at the waist. I loved designing these coats actually. In fact, they are the pieces I enjoyed making the most.

DD: What materials did you use?
Zoë Vermeire: I focused on natural fibres, such as wool and silk. I didn't want anything gimmicky for my show and my clothes had to feel real, despite the royal inspiration. I guess I tried to come up with pieces that had a strong aesthetic, while keeping some sense of normality, too. For instance, I worked on a structured skirt with dramatic volume, but used red felted wool to make it.

DD: Red was a key colour in your show. What was the appeal for you?
Zoë Vermeire: I've always been attracted to red and can't even explain why. While I was developing my accessories for the show, I started working with black, white and red. That's when I realized how much I loved these tones and kept them for my collection. I guess red has always embodied certain aspects of femininity, too.

DD: I loved your geisha hair and make-up, which looked great. How did that come about?
Zoë Vermeire: It's funny, because these elements only came in the very end. It was even odd for me at one point as I had never though of them before. It was more of an instinctive thing and I didn't want to analyze it too much.

DD: How are you feeling right now?
Zoë Vermeire:
Well, I'm obviously exhausted, but happy, too.

DD: You don't look tired at all. Are you pleased with the collection then?
Zoë Vermeire:
Yes, I am. When you are working on your final year outfits, you don't really have an external eye that sees things. Having a sense of distance towards your own work can be difficult. There's also a time pressure that prevents you from doing so.

DD: What did the jury bring you in terms of feedback and experience?
Zoë Vermeire:
It was a great process. Their comments were precise, interesting and constructive, which definitely helped.