Charlotte and Bernadette de Geyter are the Antwerp-based mother and daughter making family a priority with BERNADETTE. The fashion label’s cross-generational vision refuses to give in to age limitations, finding a sweet spot in which all women can wear its designs – and are given freedom to experiment when it comes to styling. Combining their inspirations and expertise in a fuss-free approach to dressing well, here the duo talks artistic connection and bringing the business home.
How did BERNADETTE come about?
Charlotte: After graduating from Antwerp’s Royal Academy I moved to London with big plans to work for a fashion house. After a few months, and many phone calls later, I realised this was not the right path for me. My mum and I always had an amazing creative connection and it seemed like such a natural idea to combine our strengths and launch a brand together. We’re so happy we did, it has been an amazing journey so far.
Bernadette: I was very excited to hear that my daughter wanted to work together. I have always been on the other side of fashion, as a buyer, so this was also the moment to express ideas I have had my whole life.
Who is the BERNADETTE woman?
The BERNADETTE woman is outspoken and straight to the point but can also be shy and reserved. It’s the bold colours versus the clean-cut shapes. She has a quirky side and looks at life in a positive way. She has a love for the arts and is excited to discover new and young brands that take on the challenge to do it their own way. We’d love to imagine women buying into BERNADETTE and inspiring other people by wearing it. She will become a modern-day muse and treasure the pieces to pass on to different generations.
What key features underpin your designs?
First of all, we’re a mother and daughter duo designing together. We both have distinct opinions of what we find beautiful in the arts, fashion and interiors. We represent different generations and that is what makes us strong as a duo. We love the idea of mothers and daughters buying into the same brand but then styling it so differently. It’s what most daughters love to do; find treasures in their mother’s closet and then style it differently. That’s also what mothers like, to get inspired by what their daughters wear. Through our brand, we want to show a highly creative world and show what we love. Our designs start by drawing intensively every day and finding a recognisable graphic language. It’s important for us to keep showing an intimate atmosphere, our creativity, and different women wearing the clothes.
“We represent different generations and that is what makes us strong as a duo. We love the idea of mothers and daughters buying into the same brand but then styling it so differently”
Where do you find inspiration?
Charlotte: We get inspired by many things. It can be new fabrics, colour schemes, a drawing, or lines that are stuck in my head, for example last season we started out with the words ‘casualising glamour’ or ‘eveningwear made easy’. It could also be iconic photos – that emerald green Gwyneth Paltrow look in the movie Great Expectations. Ultimately just thinking about new things we feel that women today need.
Bernadette: I take inspiration from my past, and pieces that I have kept in my archive. I like to bring them back and modernise them. I look at pieces that I personally like to wear and keep picking out of my closet. For the atmosphere of the collection, I love watching movies and getting inspired by iconic women like Grace Kelly.
What is it like working together as mother and daughter?
It’s amazing to always have your best friend with you for your important career moments. The negative aspect would be to separate the mum-and-daughter time from the work time. Sometimes we have to say to each other, “please don’t talk about work” during our family dinners. It is really difficult to not talk about it sometimes, but we’re getting better at it!
Is there added pressure that comes with being a female-owned business?
We’re proud of being able to do what we do from a super feminine standpoint. We feel the urge to make clear that we’re no ladies that can be underestimated and are proud that women are speaking louder than ever.
Can you describe your working process?
At the beginning of each collection my mum and I start researching separately. We collect materials that inspire us: a movie we have seen, colour references or an iconic woman that caught our eye. Next we sit together and talk over our research and build a mood board together. That is what we hold onto during the entire season. Then we start sketching, and I start drawing and painting the different prints. The first prototypes follow and will be adapted during fittings. Until we are fully satisfied, we end with our final piece.
“We feel the urge to make clear that we’re no ladies that can be underestimated and are proud that women are speaking louder than ever”
How do you source your materials?
We’re pleased that we have found great suppliers and have built a good relationship with them. We’re loyal to the people we work with which is important to us. We are working with European companies only, and for almost every supplier we have a contact based in Belgium. We live in such a small country, whenever we want to see someone or are looking for something specific, we take the car and visit them.
How has Antwerp shaped the brand?
Antwerp is a creative city, there’s a lot of designers and artists living here. It’s a city where you get to have a lot of space and time. This influences our brand in being timeless, and us having our own way of thinking and working.
What does style mean to you?
Charlotte: Style for me is a translation of your personality. It is something that is forever timeless.
Bernadette: Feeling good and confident in your own skin.
Who has had the biggest influence on your style?
Charlotte: Definitely, my mum! I was raised by such a stylish mum, that has always been a huge advantage for me. She always allowed me to wear whatever I wanted, there were no restrictions. I always say that my mum is cooler than me. She styles her clothing in such unconventional ways and is always able to get away with it.
Bernadette: My daughter because she challenges me to leave my comfort zone. She can make me wear a clashing colour, and then ultimately it can become my favourite dress. It’s good for women to step out of their comfort zone once a while. It can take their closet to another level.
What’s your most treasured piece of clothing?
Charlotte: I treasure all our robes. It’s the piece of clothing that I have always wanted. It’s the item that I always want to take with me and can wear for any occasion. It’s timeless and effortlessly chic.
Bernadette: All of our floral dresses. It’s impossible for me to choose. I can honestly say that my closet is only filled with BERNADETTE at the moment – I got rid of all of my other clothes. When I’m in a hurry in the morning, it’s so easy to throw on one of our dresses. You’re fully dressed in an instant. Style it with cute shoes and off you go!
What concerns you about the fashion industry today?
Fast fashion and how they can make clothing at these rates. It’s crazy for us when we see these prices. We are very aware of the price of production and the fabrics. It’s impossible for it to be able to be made ethically.
What’s next for BERNADETTE?
Charlotte: Continue to build the BERNADETTE universe, and become a recognisable brand worldwide.
Bernadette: We’re so full of ideas and will keep surprising you with what is yet to come.