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1 Apr

Entrepreneur Myriam Ullens, Founding father of Maison Ullens, Dead

PARIS — Myriam Ullens, the Belgian entrepreneur, philanthropist and art collector who founded the Maison Ullens label, has died on the age of 70, the home confirmed on Thursday.

Ullens was shot and killed in front of her home within the village of Ohain in Belgium on Wednesday, in line with local media reports. She was in a automobile together with her husband, billionaire industrialist Guy Ullens, who was reported injured but survived the attack.

Her stepson Nicolas Ullens has been charged with murder after giving himself as much as police, saying the shooting was motivated by a financial dispute, the reports said. The general public prosecutor’s office for the French-speaking province of Walloon Brabant didn’t immediately reply to a request for information.

“It’s with great sadness that we learn of the sudden passing of Baroness Myriam Ullens de Schooten Whettnal, entrepreneur, benefactor and collector, engaged in art, fashion and philanthropy,” Maison Ullens said in an announcement.

“Along with her husband Guy Ullens, she initiated in 1993 an ambitious educational program in Nepal, the Ullens School, which is each an orphanage, a care center and an academic center for primary and secondary education,” it said.

“After surviving cancer in 2003, she developed the Mimi Ullens Foundation, a foundation energetic in cancer research in eight French, Belgian and Swiss hospitals,” it added. “Mimi continually reminded us that an important thing is to say ‘thanks’ to life on daily basis. That is how she would want everyone to recollect her.”

Maison Ullens RTW Fall 2023

Courtesy of Maison Ullens

Her luxury clothing label, launched in 2009, was inspired by her love for travel and dressed outstanding women including former First Lady Melania Trump. Having worked previously with designers corresponding to Véronique Leroy, Kim Laursen and Haider Ackermann, the home recently tapped Belgian designer Christian Wijnants as artistic director.

“I loved working together with her,” said Leroy, who helped to launch the brand and remained there until 2014. “After I met her for the primary time, we immediately got on thoroughly because we’re each Belgian, so it was familiar territory, and she or he was an individual with a beautiful humorousness and an awesome zest for all times.”

The very first thing Leroy designed was a travel kit consisting of reversible cashmere separates designed to be worn on the plane, as an elegant alternative to pajamas or athleticwear. Billed as “wearable luxury” for globe-trotters, the brand’s offering subsequently expanded to incorporate shearling and leather pieces, in addition to wool denim.

“It was a blank page once I began there, so it was great,” said the designer, recalling that her best memory of Ullens was “our laughing suits, because she was funny.”

“I’m in shock. My thoughts are together with her family. It’s just terrible, because there’s an entire team that has worked with Myriam for a lot of years,” she added. “It’s horrible. It’s surreal.”

Born in Germany, Ullens began her profession within the food business. Following her wedding in 1999 to Guy Ullens, a Belgian entrepreneur and baron, she became energetic within the art world. Having amassed an enormous collection, the couple founded the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing in 2007, which was subsequently sold and renamed UCCA Center for Contemporary Art.

They remained energetic through the Switzerland-based Guy & Myriam Ullens Foundation, specializing in recent areas including digital art.

Recently, Maison Ullens named senior executives to assist it expand its retail footprint, with Wijnants charged with reenergizing the brand’s image.

“I would really like to take Maison Ullens even further when it comes to image. To have the option to supply much more versatile, more accessorized, more colourful silhouettes so as to create a recent dynamic, a recent energy while respecting our basic DNA,” Ullens told WWD on the time.

Designer and stylist Hervé Pierre, who worked with Trump during her first lady run, recalled meeting Ullens and her husband on a helipad in Greece a decade ago. She disembarked wearing a pale blue tweed Chanel high fashion daytime dress with three circular cutouts and a raspberry suede Hermès Kelly bag.

Because the helicopter’s blades whirred overhead, introductions were made throughout and Pierre teased her that it was incorrect to wear such a frock for a landing in Greece, as shorts and flip-flops were what he and others were wearing. With that, the wind then swept a light-weight coating of sand throughout her Chanel dress and everybody laughed, Pierre said.

“We laughed rather a lot in Greece, in Paris and in Latest York together with her husband Guy. They were fusional. The chemistry between these two people was palpable. They were made for one another,” Pierre said. “I’m stunned and I can still hardly process what happened.”

Pierre singled out Ullens’ generosity as certainly one of her most significant qualities. As a cancer survivor, Ullens understood how fashion and sweetness may very well be used to assist patients rebuild their confidence.

“She would have climbed mountains to enable you. She was certainly one of the primary women to create a foundation to assist women undergo cancer treatments. She put together a team to supply wigs, makeup and other services for cancer patients, who unfortunately didn’t have the budgets for that to regain their confidence,” Pierre said, adding there are YouTube videos showing their “simply extraordinary” reactions.

While visiting his family in France over the Christmas holidays in 2016, Pierre was urgently asked to fulfill with a mutual friend of Ullens’ and Trump’s in Brussels, for what turned out to be a pre-interview for the stylist post for the long run FLOTUS. “They desired to make sure that I used to be reliable and was fit for that sort of work. I passed the test,” he said.

Venezuelan entrepreneur, philanthropist and investor Carmen Busquets also paid tribute to Ullens. 

“Myriam’s generosity, passion and integrity shone through every thing she did, from her philanthropic work to the standard of the product she created for her own brand and the sincerity of her friendship,” she said.

“She had a profound understanding of what needed to be done so as to create a greater world for us all to live in and truly walked her talk. There aren’t many individuals in the style and art world who’re prepared to place the work in and get their hands dirty in the case of philanthropy, like Myriam did. She was an example to many and it saddens me she has left us too soon.”

— With contributions from Rosemary Feitelberg, Latest York

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