Interview with transparent fashion designer Bruno Pieters

Pieces donated for Designers Against Aids by Bruno Pieters

As an iniative to benefit charity organisation Designers Against Aids, Antwerp-based designer Bruno Pieters has donated archive pieces from his previous collections for sale.

Bruno Pieters is known as the founder of Honest By, the first completely transparent fashion label and online store. He wants you to find out where every button and thread of the garment you want originates with just one click. Pieters has previously hold the position of art director at Delvaux and HUGO by Hugo Boss and his namesake label before setting up Honest By in 2012. 

Why did you want to start Honest By as a completely transparent fashion company?

It's something I wanted for myself as a consumer and as someone who loves fashion. I was becoming more aware of the consequences of the fashion industry and understanding that buying is voting. Every purchase you make has consequences. If you want to pay attention to what you are buying, to buy the right products you need to make sure you are not supporting something that you are against. For that you need complete transparency. It wasn't out there so I created it. At the same time I think transparency is the best customer service you can give to your clients. If somebody is paying for your design, it's the least you can do, to tell where everything comes from. I find that completely normal. I love fashion where the story behind the garment is as beautiful as the garment

Honest By is a label and an online store. But you don't sell at any shop floors?

We don't want to. It's a choice we have made. The second season we had a collection, we presented it in Paris and London. The problem came with the buyers because they didn't appreciate transparency for their mark-up. It was endangering the concept of Honest By. We want to be open with our mark-up so we had to cancel all the orders and decided if we sell to stores it will be our own store. Now we sell online exclusively at the Honest By site.

You do collaborations with different designers such as Nicolas Andreas Taralis for Honest By. How have they adapted to the concept of transparency?

The designers who have accepted the invitation to do a collaboration with Honest By are completely open and transparent about everything. For them it's a nice experience because they want to learn and they want to do it with us. We advise them if they need materials or information on certain things. If there is a surprise it's more that it's easier than they thought it would be.

Do you plan to expand Honest By to other product lines or services in the future?

Now we have done some pack bags so bags it is a new product line that we are developing. We would like to launch 3D print download of designs.

Can you tell more why you want to pursue 3D printing?

I like the idea of 3D printing. I want to create designs and patterns to sell that you can download online and print it out at home or at a 3D printer store. I love this idea because it eliminates transportation, it solves the problems of labour and animal welfare. You can also recycle the product you just printed out with reusing the materials.

Are you worried about the possible illegal side-effects of 3D printing?

That is a risk I am willing to take. It doesn't really bother me. I just love the idea of 3D printing. You can absolutely download it once and print it out several times.

How will technology redefine sustainability in the future?

Technology will definitely give people more time to wake up and become more aware of what's going on, when they are ready to become more aware. I think technology might give us the opportunity to wake up in a more comfortable way. It's less difficult to find things and it becomesless threatening and less daunting. For me the definition the sustainability, you first have to understand what we are trying to sustain. We are not trying to sustain just nature, because nature doesn't need us. We need trees but trees don't need us. It's about understanding that we are trying to sustain our own lives because that's what's at risk in the end. We are one of the most fragile beings on this planet and if something gets out of balance in the circle of life, we are the first victims. We are dependent on everything else. That's the awareness growing amongst people, that this is about sustaining ourselves.

You have set up the Future Fashion Designer, the FFDS scholarship to encourage young designers who want todo their final collection with suistainable practice. Do you think one can go into more ethical way of fashion production straight from graduation?

If you want to start your own brand you can definitely become easily sustainable. In the end it's not so different. People have maybe the idea that it's more complicated but it really isn't. Instead of industrial fabrics you try to find certified fabrics. The process is not really different. In the end it's all about the design and trying to find the right fabrics for your design and now you can find anything. There are so many possibilities for designers if they want to work in a sustainable way. It's not like it's the 1990s where there was only beige and linen. Today everything is possible. I was thinking about launching a list of suppliers, brands and manufacturers young designers can go to that are certified to make it much more easier. If you want to work for other brands it's not necessarily important that the brand is working in a sustainable way because you can try to propose sustainable fabrics to the design and make things change once you're inside the company.

What advice do you have for young fashion designers around the world who have set up their company independently and are trying to work in a sustainable way?

I think advice is always something tricky. The best advice I can give is don't take any advice. I can only tell you things that have worked for me but everybody has their own story and their own path. What is most important is to innovate things in fashion. Advice can only become from experience and experience means that is has automatically been done before. I would say, make your own story.

What have you learned from speaking at different public events about Honest By?

I learned that people don't necessarily come to the events where I speak to learn but more to be reminded. They come to be reminded of what they already know, that they maybe are afraid to admit or express. It feels like because I am doing what I am doing, I am giving them permission to be and live the way they wanted to already. I think everything I am saying or doing with Honest By is something that people recoqnize more than learn. Certain people light up and become joyful when they hear, oh this person is like me. I think it's more reminding people that is is ok to work in this way or think in this way, more than learning. We have so much in common no matter where we are in the world. It's something that I loved to see. We all try figure out how to do our best.

You are based in Antwerp. How is working in Antwerp different compared to other cities?

What I love about Antwerp is that it has all the qualities and comforts of a city but it's much more quiet and peaceful. And I enjoy that. I enjoy quiet. Sometimes I leave for a few years but I always come back. I'm good here. When it comes to fashion design I work better in Antwerp because there are less distractions. I think for fashion this is a good city.

What is your stance regarding the use of fur and leather?

Before Honest By Iused fur and leather myself. I knew the horror behind the whole industry and how inappropriate it is. I was one of those fashion students sponsored by fur industry and I always felt certain gratitude towards the fur industry because they helped me. I think that's what happened to everybody who is my age now and a creative director in a big company or have their own brand. Even if you know how horrible the industry is, you tell yourself hundreds of excuses to continue using it. It's a huge industry that creates enormous amount of profit, same thing with leather. The reason why I stoppedusing leather is because leather is not a by-product of the meat industry. The meat industry and leather industry are two completely different industries. Most of the leather in the world, whether it's luxury or not, comes from China and India. It's about time to understand that there are so many alternatives today that don't involve the killing of another lifeform. I see more and more people becoming aware of this and I am very optimistic. But when it comes to designers, I think most designers don't have time for anything. For a big brand it's so many collections after another so I completely understand it.

Do you have any advice for the customer who is trying to find options in fashion?

I would say, continue what you are doing. If you believe it's important you should not be discouraged. Just the fact that it's not available everywhere, that is the sign that you should continue doing. That is the alarmbell. The more people search, the more easier it will become. I would continue with the thing you've started and don't get discouraged. I mean it's not that difficult to search on Google. People send hours on their computer so I don't think it's that huge effort and the impact that it has on the industry is enormous.

What inspires you at the moment?

What inspires me? The unknown.


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