Jeweller, interior designer, and student of the world Stephanie D’heygere talks inspiration, celebration and all things wonder/wander-ful.
D’heygere may be best known for a cutting-edge, surrealistic take on gems and accessories. But founder Stéphanie D’heygere — schooled by Maison Margiela, Dior, Y/Project and also, the world — is nimble and wonder-eyed. To the Belgian national, limitations and lines of “adornments” invite defiance, and what entices are forms all tangible and intangible. She, who has clocked up a chockfull of miles in travel, and even more in achievements in 2023 alone, radiates invigoration, a quality that seems to secure her a position as a favourite among other independent labels. Some of the label’s ardent followers include the star-power of most of K-Pop, creative forces like Glenn Martens and Casey Cadwallader, and the design teams of Longchamp and Gentle Monster. Men’s Folio speaks to the figurehead devising all the cult-worthy eccentrics, to break down the full spectrum of D’heygere’s design philosophies.
Hi Stephanie, how has 2023 been for you?
Amazing! Hectic! Intense! We had two very successful collaborations with the brand (Longchamp and Gentle Monster) and presented a new collaboration with Medea during our showroom in September, I won a fashion award in Belgium (Jury Prize at the Belgian Fashion awards), moved into a new apartment with my boyfriend in Paris, spent nice holidays with friends and family abroad (Thailand, Kenya and Spain), finished designing a 6000sqm co-working space in the heart of Antwerp. I sometimes need to pinch myself! I treasure all these unique moments.
D’heygere is your eponymous label, so how much of Stéphanie do we see in D’heygere, and how much D’heygere do we see in you?
There’s a lot of Stéphanie in the brand. I think it’s important that a brand embodies the founder, that’s what makes the brand unique. But the brand also only exists because I have a great team that surrounds me.
You have described D’heygere to be an accessory brand in the “broadest sense”; a conceptual one at that. Do you feel like in your five years of running the brand, you’ve stuck true to this?
I think so. Of course, taste evolves and times change, so you need to adapt to the circumstances and the market; but the core is always there.
What do you think is the vibe of the D’heygere customer?
It’s a customer with great taste and personality Our audience is quite diverse, what connects them is their touch of audacity. We also put a lot of effort in having a broad price range to not exclude any new
Has it been challenging in aligning the brand to conceptual? Especially when you are collaborating more frequently with more mass labels like Longchamp?
Not so far, I think that’s also why bigger brands want to collaborate with us. Conceptualism is really my dada, I wouldn’t be able to design in any other way.
And what does the behind-the-scenes conceptualisation process look like? Do D’heygere’s collections unfold with a key phrase, or experience, or object in mind?
Can be anything: a sentence that most of the time is a question or a word play. A piece of jewellery I bought at a flea market. A work of art that I saw at an exhibition. Or something I perceived while walking through the city or taking the metro. I think the streets are a great source of inspiration. With now having launched 10 collections, I also use previously designs as an inspiration because at the end everything is a work in progress.
And do you apply the same approach to your freelance work? I’m curious on how you utilised your overarching surrealist philosophies to design the “Officeland” at Silver Square Antwerp.
When I design jewellery for other brands, I really draw a line between my brand and the other brand. That’s not as easy as it sounds like because at the end my taste is always involved; but it helps that each client has his own universe so I can transport myself inside their world. But for the co-working space, I really applied my personal taste and went all the way. It was an amazing experience because I’ve never done something like this. So I had so many ideas because it was the first time. The team that was working me, were great because they believed in my designs. It was a serious challenge for them to execute these crazy ideas but they did it! I realised that designing a new collection or a space is not that different. And I’ve always had function in my mind when designing accessories so it was not that hard to design furniture. I hope I’ll get other opportunities like this. I would love to design a restaurant or a hotel
Also, you seem to be very well travelled — I understand it is partly for work, but I also notice you have been to Kenya, Thailand, Switzerland this year. Have you been to Singapore before? Do you have a favourite city?
I love travelling. For work, I travel a lot to Italy and to Belgium. But I also love to travel for pleasure. Its so inspiring and good for the mind to leave a busy city like Paris and discover new surroundings, cultures,
people… I love to discover new places. Every time I get back from travelling, I’m full of energy and new ideas. I have not been to Singapore yet but it’s on my bucket list! I don’t have a favourite city. I prefer to discover a new city than to go back to a city I’ve been before. Though I must say, Bangkok was amazing.
Wouldn’t mind to go back!
Have your travels allowed you to take a more “worldly” approach to your work? Or would you say you had a broadened world-view from young? I mean, Belgium is a very diverse country in itself!
Belgium is very diverse but I grew up in a small town. Since I was a teenager, I’ve always dreamt of living abroad. As far as possible. Studying in Antwerp was a good start, because you meet so many different
students. And after school I had the chance to do internships in Los Angeles, New York and London. Then I ended up in Paris. It was not my dream destination but now I love it. It’s also very close to Belgium, so very convenient.
Take your South Korean collaborations with Dada in 2021 and Gentle Monster in 2023 for instance. How did those cross-continental collaborations happen?
Yeah, it’s crazy that we did already two collaborations with South Korea-based brands. I think [D’heygere’s] aesthetics fits the Asian market, [which are] more bold than the European market. Which I’m very grateful for! I met somebody from Dada in Paris and we had a good connection. Regarding Gentle Monster, it was us that contacted them.
For Gentle Monster, you worked around the theme of matrimony. What inclined D’heygere to do this?
I love matrimonies! It’s just the best feeling to see people fall in love and choose for each other. And weddings make to most memorable parties With Gentle Monster, it was a nice way to announce the collaboration. Though the theme was not implemented in the beginning, it came along the designing process. I like when ideas kind of take their own course and than it becomes so obvious.
The traditional theme for a five-year wedding anniversary is wood — symbolising durability and hardiness. As D’heygere nears its five-year anniversary, what do you think is most durable of the brand?
The designs. A smart design ages well. I love the concept of heritage so I hope that the next generation will be wearing the accessories they inherited from their parents. That’s also the reason why we try to make all the jewelry out of Sterling Silver, for it to be long-lasting.
And can we then expect to see any wood in your collections in 2024?
Not a bad idea!
And collaborations too?
I love collaborations, it’s the perfect opportunity to try another range of products and to target new customers. I hope to extend our collaboration with Gentle Monster but nothing confirmed yet and there’s some other brands that I would love to collaborate with, but let’s see.
I feel like we need to talk about your time at Margiela, Dior and Y/Project. You also attended the school of the Antwerp Six, the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. Which institution has granted you the most profound of learning experiences?
I loved attending the school in Antwerp, but perhaps I was still a bit too young/naive to realise/enjoy the education I was receiving at that time. For me the internships were a turning point, because you finally start to understand how the industry works. But my most memorable experience was of course my five years at Margiela. A real eye-opener. The best school I could think of. My boss was incredible, the house (its archive and everything it stands for) was incredible. I keep on learning of course and every (work) experience keeps shaping me.
You have mentioned your love for self-employment. When you embarked on launching D’heygere, all while managing your freelancing role, would you say in hindsight that you were fully ready for the management of it all?
I love to work for other brands because it’s such a different job than running your own brand. You design jewellery to go with looks that will be shown during a fashion show. I love the backstage atmosphere of a show. What I like about having my own brand is of course that I can do anything that I want and control everything. We’ll see for how long this can continue like this, but for now I enjoy every moment. FYI I love multi-tasking
So from your experience of being in charge of nearly every facet of the brand, is there a department that you feel a special kind of tenderness for?
The design part because that’s of course my speciality. But I also love the communication part. Organising shoots, taking care of Instagram, meeting new people. It’s all very exciting. And the days never look the same, never a dull moment that’s for sure.
Was there a “Mum, I made it!” moment for D’heygere?
The brand’s five years is a big achievement. Especially as I’m still not putting 100% of my time in it. But there are so many small moments that I treasure: it can go from a nice picture in a magazine, a celebrity wearing D’heygere, a fan who sends a cute message on Instagram, an old intern that found a great job…
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