Édouard Vermeulen: “Tomorrow, the holidays will perhaps not bring together 300 people any more. But frankly, who really has 300 friends?”
We had a drink with Édouard Vermeulen, director of the Natan fashion house. If the Covid has affected him in several ways, he sees many positive aspects. It’s stronger than him.
“So, worried?”, Says the designer as he begins his descent on the Ixelles ponds. On the phone, he reassures: he’s coming. It’s just that with this “wonderful weather” he kept meeting people on the way back to the store. In the meantime, he even made a stop at the caterer. It is therefore with his bag that he describes as “a Covid aperitif” that we enter the most beautiful corner house in Ixelles, probably even in Brussels. Rarely, the row of rooms extends across the width. Here the windows – as large as the walls – accentuate the apartment’s small “showcase” aspect, a large pied-à-terre that the couturier wanted in a “grand hotel” style. Inside, an eclectic decoration, mixing Louis XVI, Empire and Napoleon III styles, with a lot of ethnic and contemporary.
“No more big dinners, 5 hours at the table to hear 14 speeches … Since the Covid, I discovered the pleasure of ‘meatloaf, potatoes and green beans’ dinners in mini-committee. At 9 p.m., we said everything and everyone goes home. ”
His aperitif? A beer. Because contrary to what everyone imagines, he hates champagne and social events. No, he’s a beer man, a Duvel or a Saint-Omer, always served in a Ypra glass, a curved, stemmed glass whose decor evokes the city of Ypres in a bucolic version. He and his glass must be the same age, made by the same man, Father Vermeulen, once a brewer in the eponymous town. Seated in a stylish armchair, he is now slapping into chips that look like wafers from a distance, the style without fat, salt, starch and coloring.
Tonight, Édouard Vermeulen is more than in a good mood, he is charming. Despite the bad news, despite the pessimistic outlook for an upcoming deconfinement, despite the lack of vaccines, despite the delays in the schedule, despite the general fed up of the population. Despite everything, Édouard Vermeulen remains charming. Like always. He also seems to have made the best of this funny period. He made the most of it, so rare are the occasions to reset everything. “The advantage of containment is that today we are going back to simpler things. No more big dinners for a minimum of 12 people, the hellish cycle of all those invitations that you have to give back, the 5 hours at the table to hear 14 speeches … Since the Covid, I have discovered the pleasure of dinners’ meatloaf, apples of ground and green beans’ in mini-committee, with a bottle of red wine on the table. At 9 p.m., we said everything and everyone goes home. Frankly, why not?“, he blurted out, crossing his legs.
Optimistic against all odds
At Natan too, he explains that he made the best of it. The explosion linked to the arrival of the virus happened “with concern, but without anguish”, thanks to new projects and the trust that binds him to his teams. He told them, moreover, “we are in a state of war, but we are being helped.” So everyone rolled up their sleeves to keep the machine running and still prepare the new collections. Time, too, to rethink the fundamentals. Here again, let’s get to the “basics”, “recycle” what can be, let’s look at the profiles of these women who might need Natan in the future, let’s launch an e-shop for everything ready-to-wear. -carry. And even podcasts to dress better. Besides, Edward always said it, “difficult times are also awareness. As a result, we take the opportunity to adapt, readjust and refocus. “
Well, no luck Paris, where the couturier had just opened a boutique 6 weeks exactly before confinement. But here again, no discouragement, he has just resigned his lease and intends to make this new adventure a success. Even if clearly, in Paris, he can tell you, “at the moment and with the closings at 6 pm, it is not the effervescence in the city”.
“I have high hopes for a recovery, by May-June. We will have to get back to living one day, we will not all lie down under a tree to die, all the same.”
On the other hand, what is certain is that if we hit the whole of 2021 in 2020 mode, he will retire. “But I have high hopes for a recovery, by May-June. We will have to get back to living one day, we won’t all lie down under a tree to die, all the same. Then undoubtedly, life will be different. I imagine that with the future viruses that are predicted to us, we will perhaps live ‘Japanese style’, with more distance and physical reserve between beings, less physical contact. We will only kiss his own, but frankly, it’s not that bad. In any case, the world will be different and maybe a lot more selective, but I am up for a change! ”
Tomorrow will be slow
We ask him about the shrinking of cocktails, dinners in town and social events and their consequences on his business and his house. Even there, not even afraid. “Tomorrow will be slow, parties and weddings might not have 300 people anymore, but frankly, it might not be so bad. Who really has 300 friends? Same with consumption, we will perhaps be more local, we will choose – and I hope – more products manufactured here, which support Belgian companies which, for their part, provide employment in the country, which is better. . “ He adds that he was very touched by the support of his clients, those who took the news during the most difficult months. Cherry on the cake, the Palais Royal itself took the most. “The two generations, Albert and Paola, but also Philippe and Mathilde, have heard from everyone, from me while worrying about the situation of the sector and all the others. You cannot know like that. ‘touched…”
“Albert and Paola, but also Philippe and Mathilde, have heard from everyone. You cannot know how it touched me…”
Édouard Vermeulen is a man who drinks little, yet he will nevertheless take a little beer again, “it feels good anyway,” he confesses before going back to his peppery crisps. Always fit and smiling, he says he personally went through the pandemic without anxiety, even with regard to his parents who are over ninety years old. A doctor friend had told him that the more they worried, the less their immunity would be good. “Caution yes, paranoia no. Let’s just try to do the best we can.”, could we summarize for him. It is now 9 p.m., the aperitif is over, Edouard has finished his beer and is about to enjoy alone, but with luxury, calm and pleasure, the whole evening he has in front of him.
Natan’s director in 5 dates
1983: I start a new life by taking over Natan. I used to be a decorator, then a decorator who started selling clothes in his showroom.
1992: I buy a manor house with a large garden, near Mechelen. A childhood dream and my first personal project.
1999: Mathilde’s wedding dress. Before, I was a royalist by education. That day, I became one out of conviction. A team project above all, a pride and a recognition so intertwined with the fear of not being up to the task.
2017: at 60, i buy land in Knokke to build a house. I have always thought that the geolocation of where you live determines the future.
2020: the opening of our store in Paris. Six weeks later the first confinement was declared. Even though the situation is not easy, I continue to believe in it and hold on.
What are you drinking?
Favorite aperitif: I always alternate between a Duvel or a Saint-Omer. Each one belongs to one of my cousins. I remain a son of a brewer who landed in fashion.
At table: always bordeaux, very little white, never champagne. My favorite bordeaux, from Château Phélan Ségur.
Last cooked: at the Duvel, 34 years ago. It was at the Knokke casino, where I had seen Barry White. That evening, my brother introduced us to his future in-laws. After 2 Duvel, I said to myself “Edward, concentrate”. Alcohol in receptions, “yes” for ease, but “no way” to go further.
Who to pay for a drink: to Bernard Arnault. This man revolutionized fashion, the world of luxury, but also commercial real estate around the world. LVMH may be the death of small fashion houses, but they have saved many others as well. An incredible success and in a single generation. He fascinates me.