Olivia Hainaut and I met during october at Showroom Belgium. We only spend a few minutes talking and exchanging business cards. I took a quick look at the jewels she creates and then go to see the others designers, my schedule was tight.
Two weeks ago i was in Brussels and we take time with Dominique Lefèbvre (WBI) to have a lunch with Olivia at Junkfood Deluxe by Quentin, speak freely and visit her atelier.
Olivia is from the french side of Belgium, studied at Les Beaux-Arts then at La Cambre. Her parents, a psychoanalyst mother who used to wear Sonia Rykiel, Paco Rabanne, smoke cigars and a father who used to grow sideburns and had a little monkey who play in his textile factory, were « eccentrics in love with fashion » she said, « they spend time organizing parties in their Vasarely-like apartment ».
From this era Olivia keeps the taste of beautiful things, fashion and luxury.
Olivia Hainaut’s window shop
Inside the workshop and showroom
Paco Rabanne’s « 1969 » iconic chainmail bag
Passionate about movies, she first want to work for the cinema and did photo styling. Romy Schneider, her favorite actress, was one of our first subject of discussion talking about her beauty and the movies La Piscine, Les Choses de la vie or L’Enfer.
Olivia is also a big fan of all the hottest actress of the seventies, Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, Ursula Andress, Monica Vitti. During the dessert we talk about Madness on the roofs of Buckingham Palace for the diamond jubilee. We sung Lovecats, from The Cure(!), remember Blondie, Siouxsie and all that punk-rock music. We talked about the looks of these bands especially Olivia who we wore them all (from rockabilly to new-wave)!
After this experience she starts her own collection of jewelry and show it to Natan, the great belgian fashion house. Immediately they ask for her skills and she starts making beading, embroideries for cocktail and weddings dresses for more than ten years. At that time all that she learned and earned was invested in her personal collection. Things were going well, her creations were sold in Paris at Le Bon Marché until september 11th…
A finely crafted leather scarf, each model is cut in a full animal skin and therefore is unique. I couldn’t resist to buy one in black,.
From gold, metallic, fluo or mat, dozens of colors are available. Everything is carefully crafted in Italy
Today she’s no longer collaborate with Natan, developing her brand is the main goal. But as she told me it’s difficult nowdays for independents designers and she need more collaborations or internship in a more established house (Jean-Paul Gaultier, Alexander McQueen will be a must).
Most of the time belgian people (french) prefer buy foreign brands than local ones, while the flemish support their Ann Demeulmesteer, Dries Van Noten or Bruno Pieters. In general belgian designers have better recognition outside the country.
All these experiences and influences are the core of her work, her main creations mix something dark and shiny, sophisticated and raw, sharp and soft.
More at Olivia Hainaut’s website