Thursday, October 16, 2008

Indie Designer Crush: Hilde Heyvaert

Full Steam (Punk) Ahead!
By Lux

Lux: I want to start by saying that ever since you started posting in Sew Underground I have admired your sewing ability. The construction of your garments is so perfect. Where did you learn to sew?

HH: Thanks, I really appreciate that compliment a lot, especially coming from someone as talented as you :)

I never had any proper formal training, my mum studied fashion in high school so she taught me the basics and I took it from there myself. Initially she didn't want me to use her antique Bernina machine because she was afraid I'd wreck it, but then she quickly realized I'd nag her to sew for me all the time so she caved and taught me. She also taught me to do heaps of things by hand sewing.

Lux: Aww thanks! I never had proper training either. Isn’t it interesting how so many of us never took classes of any kind? How much hand sewing do you do? I try to avoid it myself. Do you still use the antique Bernina?

HH: I think a lot of people are self-trained because it's not always equally easy to get formal training.

If you go to let's say, fashion college, that's often really expensive, and that is if you get in at all.

Sewing classes are often few and far between as well, and not all are actually appropriate for people that want to learn how to design their own clothes. Over here in Belgium most sewing classes are evening classes, which isn't always terribly practical to start with, and they focus on teaching you to make garments from existing patterns and to adjust them to _your_ body. That's all fine and dandy if you occasionally want to sew something from a pattern by one of the big companies for yourself, but it doesn't actually teach you anything about draping, adjusting patterns for others than yourself, converting patterns or heaven forbid: drafting your own pattern. I'm not saying there's no good classes outside fashion college, I'm sure there are, but odds are that they're at night several hours away from where someone lives.

I generally only hand sew when I'm doing bits that are requesting more manual dexterity than what you get with the machine. Sometimes things just look better hand sewn you know.

But no, I don't use the antique Bernina anymore, it's still at my parent's house. I don't think my mother would ever be able to part with that :) I got a cheap Toyota after using that antique Bernina for a couple of months, which was probably one of the most horrid machines on the market. Seriously, I am NEVER getting a Toyota again. After a year of heavy use the engine pretty much gave up completely. So we replaced it with a Bernina 1008, which I love. A couple of years ago Bert (my boyfriend) bought me a Husqvarna Viking serger (a Huskylock 905) which is brilliant. So I use those two machines now. I think that if I were to get a new machine, it would probably be Bernina or Husqvarna. Although that won't be in the near future as the ones I have now are still in perfect working order.

Lux: That’s true there is only so much you can learn from a community sewing class. Not that I ever took one but I looked into it a number of years before and found that I was way beyond what they were teaching already. Ha!

I had no idea Toyota made machines. I guess there’s a reason for that… I hear lots of good things about Viking machines though. I want to get one of their embroidery machines one day.

So you’re located in Belgium right? Are you from there? What’s the local fashion scene like? Do you see a lot interesting things or is it the same old, same old?

HH: I heard Toyota makes sergers as well, and I've heard nothing good about those either. I think it's best to just buy a machine that gets at least a very high percentage of "love it" type comments, like Bernina, Viking, Pfaff etc.

My advice to anyone getting a machine would be to go to a store that lets you try the machines and where they are willing to explain the entire working. I get all my machines at a small family owned place that does most repairs too. It might not be the cheapest place, but it does have the best customer service and in the end of the day, that's priceless.

I'm in Belgium yeah, born and raised here. We actually have a pretty renown fashion scene what with the Antwerp 6 and all that. And we have two fashion colleges of some international fame (the Antwerp academy and La Cambre in Brussels). The local fashion scene, well I'm inclined to say it's divided in two major parts. There's the academy style, which is basically more art than fashion (in my opinion) and the generally crazy "I'm fashion student so I dress outrageous" kinda style. And to counter that there's the same old, same old. There _are_ people around that have their own unique style, but you get those everywhere. I do see some seriously cool outfits occasionally so there is hope :)
Of course you see more individual styles in the cities, which are traditionally more open minded than small towns. I guess that's the same everywhere.

Lux: That’s so true. I just moved to a really small town and I get some odd looks even if I‘m fairly casually dressed. But if I go San Francisco for the day no one bats an eye. Do you always wear your clothes or do you save them for special occasions?

HH: Yes exactly! It's amazing that in this day and age there is still such a mentally difference between cities and towns. It never seizes to amaze me.
I mostly wear clothes I've made myself, but the main reason is that I've made most of my wardrobe :)

But I do have stuff I've got at other places, I love getting things from etsy and basic stuff from H&M. Some things, like my Halloween wardrobe, I save for October (and my Lost LARP character haha), and there are clothes that are also part of costume for something or other (mostly LARP characters) so they don't get much wear and I suppose they pretty much only come out for special occasions.

I guess it depends on which garment it is and what I want to wear that day :)

Lux: What is LARP?

HH: Live action roleplay. You can find all about the group I'm in on ;)

Lux: Cool. J So you’re mostly into Steampunk fashion right? How did you get into that? What do you like most about it?

HH: Yes I am, I love steampunk.

I grew up with the books of Jules Verne, my dad read them to me when I was little (he's a big Verne fan too) and I remember that before I could read I was always looking at the pictures of Nautilus and other cool contraptions.
I love the entire mentality and concept behind it: the future past that never happened but could be in this time. I love that idea. And I've always loved the esthetic of Victorian and belle époque fashions. The bustle skirts and pouf sleeves for women and the tailcoats and waistcoats for men. I love wearing stuff like that in a contemporary way. And I love that at the very most the fashion has guidelines but no set rules. On the contrary to pretty much every other fashion style: people are pretty free to do whatever they want with it. There's such a brilliant diversity.

Basically I've always loved it, and at one point decided I was going to look the part :)

Although which part (adventurer, aristocrat, dandy, casual, mad inventor, airship pirate etc) largely depends on my mood that day :)

I honestly think I'm a lot more active in steampunk then in any other style I've ever been part of, I'm on tons of communities and forums and I write fashion articles for Gatehouse Gazette aside from being active as a designer.

I still design other things too mind you, occasionally I still feel the need to do something totally non steamy :)

Lux: Steampunk reminds me of this graphic novel called The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Have you heard of it? I know they made a movie but it does no justice to the comic. There’s some really cool art in there and the clothes on the characters are gorgeous! I’ve considered dressing up as Mina Harker for Halloween but I just don’t have the time to pull off such an elaborate costume. Are you doing anything special for Halloween?

Yes I know that one, I own it :)
I actually quite like the movie, even though it's not following the graphic novel well at all. I still like the feel of it, Nemo's inventions and all the cool costumes. Sure, it's not the best movie out there, but I find it very enjoyable nonetheless :)
I LOVE Mina Harker's scientist outfits!

For Halloween I'm having a party at my house the weekend before Halloween (because my friends are available then) and then on Halloween itself I'll be in Disneyland Paris with my friend Charlotte. I'm going to dress up as a Halloween steampunk pirate, and Charlotte is going to dress up as something, but she keeps on changing her mind about what she wants to be. My costume is all but finished, I just need to put together a shirt and a pair of spats now, I'll definitely be finished in time :)

Lux: The movie was ok. I guess I'm too much of a comic book geek. I have to nit-pick everything! I love the inventions too. I think the movie was more about the scenery and costumes, which is cool for people like us who get inspired by those things. :) Another one I like to watch for inspiration is Bram Stoker's Dracula. Everything in it is so rich looking. Like a visual embodiment of red velvet cake or something. OK I'm weird. HAHA

Damn! You're doing Halloween right. And I thought I went all out. I am having a party too. My first in my new house. There's lots of planning to do so I better get to it. And I better let you go so you can finish your costume. You will post pictures right?

HH: Comic books aren't nearly as huge in Belgium as they are in the US, so I guess people here don't tend to get very annoyed by movie adaptations like they do elsewhere where there is a far larger comic book culture.

I really like that version of Dracula as well, the costumes really are exquisite in that movie.

And please don't worry about taking my time away from sewing, I am not even vaguely short on time :)

Plenty of time left to get everything finished well in time :)

I will definitely post pictures of my costume :)

I'm hoping to get a bunch made before Halloween, so I don't have to worry about getting good pictures while I'm in Disneyland Paris. It's smack in the fall holidays of Belgium and peak season there so I suspect there will be crowds in the way for pics. I'm definitely going to get my picture taking with Jack Skellington and Sally though, come hell or high water. I'm a Disney geek like that haha :)

Lux: Let's hear it for us geeks then! haha Can't wait to see the pics. And thank you so much for letting me interview you. It was great getting to know more about you. I really appreciate it and I'm sure the readers do too.

See even more amazing clothes check out Hilde's website House of Secrets.

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