“There is no limit to cuteness” is the motto of Niels Peeraer. Hearts, bows and candy pink are all recurring motifs in Peeraer sophisticated work. The Belgian fashion and accessories designer reaches the peak of sweetness through his handbags and accessories, laughing in the face of monochromatic minimalism.
Peeraer, a graduate of the Royal Fashion Academy of Antwerp, now based in Paris, explores the contrast between masculine and feminine through the tension of the rough materials and the soft heartedness of his designs. His “feminine” pieces are often presented on male models, creating a playful mix of colors and textures.
How do you relate to the concept of gender in your creation?
I design genderless objects. I want everyone to be able to relate to my label, regardless of gender “boundaries”. Personally, I managed to overcome the “block” of buying womenswear at a young age, but it is not as easy for everyone. There are often physical differences in the human body that force us to comply with some standards, but this is not the case in accessories or bags. Most of time, it is a just mental image that people have and creates that boundary I refuse to acknowledge.
So you avoid categorizing what is feminine and what is masculine?
In my head it is much more fluid. Femininity for me represent the search for beauty, and delicacy. Pure ‘masculinity’ doesn’t interest me at all. I like to see things as combination of opposites.
Your brand is quite unique in that sense, playing with contrast concepts and perceptions. How does the idea of “cuteness” mitigate these contrasts?
I want to combine “cute” design aesthetic with handmade products that have real value to them, keeping in mind the practicality of the volumes and wear. Most “cute” items are made from poor materials, while brands that focus on high quality generally do very minimalistic designs. I try to balance the two worlds – my design aesthetic and quality of the products.
Which materials are you currently working with?
I’m mostly doing what I’m doing because of my love for leather. The way it moves, bends, the strength of it. But especially I love the natural beauty of the material and how it ages over time. In terms of metal, I previously worked with brass, but have now switches to gold plated metal in order to elongate the durability of my pieces.
And what are your main inspirations?
Anime, illustrations, the image of the ‘lolita’. My current mood is usually highly reflected in my collections.
How do they evolve from season to season?
In a very organic way, as I design from my heart. My collections will reflect a specific state of mind, but will always grow from the same place, my mind. The way I work can not lead to a situation where collections clash completely with each other. I think it is more of a continuous work, like one long story. When it is fashion week and I have a new collection, you peek into a specific moment in that story line, but it keeps evolving throughout the rest of the year.
So how do you create innovation in your story?
I’m not sure there is, or can still be, real innovation within the fashion industry. As a designer I am more interested in reaching beauty than in finding the next new thing, as there will always be something newer to replace it. The innovation in my work relies in trying to keep traditional handcraft contemporary and up to date.
Is there a room at all for trends in your work?
Honestly? I really work organically. I prefer to have a beautiful handmade piece, with real value that comes both from the materials and from the heart. It is more important to me than designing according to trends. As I see it, following trends means giving an expiration date to your work, so I prefer to create timeless pieces.
I do understand though why for many brands it is the way to stay relevant, but it is just not the way I want to reach my customers. I believe this way of thinking is a very prominent characteristic of Belgian designers.
What is the message you are seeking to share through your creative practice?
« There is no limit to cuteness ». I want to capture innocent happiness, even for people who are not really into ‘cute’ things. I am looking for that ‘ooooh’ moment, or lighting up the mood. I love that. I have no intentions to to shock people, but to light up the day of the wearer and passer by, even if just for a little while.
Lior Fisher Shiloni