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16 Jan

EXCLUSIVE: Christian Wijnants Becomes Artistic Director at Maison Ullens

PARIS — Belgian luxury fashion house Maison Ullens has named Christian Wijnants artistic director because it gears up for a latest phase of expansion.

The Belgian designer, known for his expertise in knitwear, will make his debut for the label with a fall 2023 collection that will likely be presented to buyers in Brussels from Feb. 1 to three and to press in the course of the Paris women’s shows, the brand said in an announcement provided exclusively to WWD.

The label, founded in 2009, has worked up to now with designers reminiscent of Véronique Leroy, Kim Laursen and Haider Ackermann, but had produced collections with an in-house team for the last two seasons. 

Founder Myriam Ullens said she was drawn to Wijnants attributable to “his generosity within the selection of materials, his softness in his graphisms, his openness to the world, his vision of volumes, his way of working colours, his positive energy which defines so well his general work.”

The home last 12 months named Jérémy Hautin chief operating officer and Jonathan La Morte retail director because it seeks to expand its retail footprint, and hopes to capture attention with its latest creative direction.

“I would love 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 with a purpose to create a latest dynamic, a latest energy while respecting our basic DNA,” Ullens explained.

“I also wanted to strengthen our Belgian roots and work with a designer able to interpreting them through future collections,” she added. “We’re continually evolving when it comes to materials and colours, but additionally when it comes to volumes and attitude we wish to supply to the girl of tomorrow. Christian embodies a certain freshness, a latest modern and relaxed look, a robust attitude without pretension.”

A graduate of Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Effective Art, Wijnants won the Grand Prix on the Hyères International Festival of Fashion and Photography in 2001, happening to found his eponymous label in 2003. He subsequently scooped up the ANDAM prize in 2006 and the Woolmark Prize in 2013.

The designer was introduced to Ullens online, and the 2 immediately bonded over their shared design ethos. Maison Ullens bills its clothing as “wearable luxury” for globe-trotters.  

“I like these sorts of brands that are timeless, brands that don’t necessarily follow trends, that make these beautiful pieces that you simply just wish to wear all 12 months long, for a lot of, a few years,” Wijnants said. 

“What I need to bring to that story is possibly somewhat bit more depth, to haven’t only essentials and classics season after season, to haven’t only a color palette that may be very muted and subtle, but to bring each season as well a latest story,” he added. 

Myriam Ullens

David Atlan/Courtesy of Maison Ullens

Wijnants also believes the brand doesn’t fully reflect the personality of its founder.

An entrepreneur, philanthropist and collector, Ullens and her husband, Baron Guy Ullens, founded the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, in addition to the Ullens School in Nepal. She also initiated the Mimi Foundation, dedicated to helping cancer patients.

“She has a really strong personality, she has a whole lot of ideas, she has a humorousness, she has a whole lot of different interests, from traveling to art, and I believe possibly the brand to this point was somewhat bit too shy about all those ideas,” Wijnants said.

His first collection was inspired by the wildlife and wide open spaces of Wyoming, with materials including shearling, leather, cashmere and wool denim, and a palette with pops of yellow, orange and green. 

“It’s almost a romantic idea because I’m living in a city and I all the time long for nature, so for me, it was just trying to seek out a spot on earth somewhere where the character can be still at a quite raw stage,” the designer said.

Knitwear makes up around 75 percent of the offer, he said. Along with the brand’s signature double-faced knits, a number of the leather and shearling outerwear is reversible. Wijnants said he was focused on working with rugged and crinkly textures, just like the silk and polyamide mix he used for tops.

His passion for knits goes all the way in which back to his teens, when he discovered an old knitting machine within the basement of his parents’ house. 

“Even after 20 years, I’m still not bored of it and you possibly can all the time discover latest techniques, latest ideas and develop a whole lot of stuff. I actually have this passion for that technique, and that’s why it was quite unique to seek out a brand that also shares the identical passion. That’s why I believe it’s a excellent click between our two houses,” he said.

Wijnants will produce two collections a 12 months for Maison Ullens, which has stores in Paris, Recent York City and Aspen, Colorado. As reported, the brand is ramping up its presence within the U.S. and the Middle East, and Belgium can also be on the wishlist.

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