I met Marie Herlin and Maxime Gambon at l’Atelier en ville a concept store in the center of Brussels. This stylish yet cosy location is where they work and where you can find the clothes from their brand, Nalebinding.
It has become a joint affair for the pair. Marie founded the brand after an intensive five years of textile design in the Fine Arts school of Brussels. Maxime fell in love with her and her creative vision so he diverted from his original path in architecture to work on the project fully. He initially covered only the business side, leaving Marie in charge of all things creative but soon changed that and studied a master in textile design. He is now in charge of the natural dying process, which contributes to the clothes’ uniqueness.
Textile is central to their inspiration for creating a new collection, reinterpreting it with a modern take. “ We base ourselves mainly on the materials. For the first collection it was denim, we took classic references which were cotton, indigo dye, and bleach, and tried to blend these with our vision into the structure of the knit”.
Collaboration is key to these two, who entrust their stylist, Quentin Lamock after their first understanding on the shapes they want, to create timeless and easy to wear cuts. They both insist on the fact that he “has the last word on the cut… he knows what is best in this area so we trust him entirely”.
The emphasis on quality is paired by their attention to sustainability. “[…] We try to work in a more sustainable way by staying in Europe, […] we keep local providers which allows a bigger control on the product as well” Maxime explained. This approach justifies a higher price range as Marie pointed out but she also foresees how this kind of product will soon be of interest to more people as the concern for the environment creates opportunities finally taking flight in Belgium. Building on that Maxime refers to fast fashion and the way it has contributed to “losing the spirit of thinking that, when buying a piece of clothing, we are buying something that is timeless and that obviously costs more”. However, he believes we are slowly going back to what is important.
Their love of vintage clothing strongly influences their activities. Maxime, who loves “thrift shopping for that specific 60s denim jacket” has a side denim project in the works. The concept of the wardrobe with a story is something special for Marie who inherited both designer and affordable pieces from her mother. It made perfect sense to maintain open collections which “allow a client, even after six years, to take a piece from the first collection; we can order again and even create pieces again” Maxime explains.
When asked about their struggles they get candid about the initial help they got from family and friends but also about the money flowing out to start a collection with not much flowing back in at first. Technical risks from the industry are high but they see these as part of the game. “Even for the big-names it happens. If a machine breaks down you have to improvise” Marie says with a smile. “You have to find solutions and move forward” Maxime continues. To which Marie concludes “you have to keep a cool head, it’s not easy when you start but then you manage”.
They are conscious of their complementary forces and cherish how pervasive their private life and their project are: the workshop is literally in their flat, “I don’t see myself not talking about textile even for a day”. The only time they don’t talk about knitting is during their daily practice of yoga where they are not allowed to speak. “It takes off the stresses and pressure of the day” Maxime explains, “In a weird way that is where we feel most connected” Marie comments. Their dynamic involves the ability to motivate one another and to bring perspective. This “helps getting out of your own head and going for the best route” Marie highlights the benefits of Maxime’s more rational approach to her purely creative one. It’s all about balancing creativity with commercial vision for them; the aim is to be able to live off of their projects and connect with people.
Beyond their brand what sticks to mind are two passionate individuals; collaborating with people they trust to help them bring their vision to life, expanding their creative world as they go. To them, learning from others is essential in order to keep a fresh eye. They have explored the passing on of knowledge by holding a workshop where seniors taught kids how to knit. They wish to take this human focused approach a step further by opening up a concept store where they would “sell small quantities of beautiful things we really like”. Before that they want to diffuse the brand throughout Europe starting from the Nordic countries and head south when they create summer collections.
Ultimately they hope to inspire young people with a creative passion not to give up, “even if that sounds cliché” and the best way being to “find someone else with the same passion to make sure you both keep up”.