a conversation with the designers

Belgian retailer LolaLiza launched The LolaLiza Fashion School a few months ago. Belgian fashion talents can enter the competition and the winners will see their designs made into real pieces and sold in LolaLiza stores. Designers Femke Thijs, Liesl De Ridder and Nanook Cools are the three lucky winners of the competition.

The three were selected from a total of ten finalists. Each of these ten people received compensation for their participation in the competition. The finalists were welcomed to LolaLiza’s headquarters for a two-day bootcamp where they worked on the final assignment with a trainer. The designs of Femke Thijs, Liesl De Ridder and Nanook Cools were finally selected as the best. Winners will receive a set-up fee and commission on the sale of their item. The winning designs will be available in stores in May 2023.

Liesl De Ridder. Image via LolaLiza

Liesl De Ridder

Liesl is 24 years old and currently lives in Borås, Sweden. She studies at the Swedish Textilhögskolan. She has participated in several exhibitions in the past and she has experience in design, styling, production and costume design.

What can you already tell us about your winning design?

“My dress is airy and puffy, so women who wear it can move freely in the hot summer season. It is dark, but with a strong color print, perfect for going on holiday. It also comes with a super fun accessory that adds an extra touch.”

What inspired you?

“I was inspired by three strong ladies, three of the best women, three grandmothers. The sweetest grandmas who inspired me to make my dreams come true and reach my goals. With my designs I wanted to highlight strong women, embracing who you are and confidence.”

What does this victory mean to you?

“This victory opens new doors for me. I am very happy and excited about what is to come. So far it has already been a very fun and educational experience. I also hope to make my grandmother extra proud. Time and time again I prove myself and become more confident about the future. This is a great start to something big. I am very grateful to the entire LolaLiza team for this unique opportunity and I am also extremely happy to embark on this adventure with the other two winners.”

Femke Thijs. Image via LolaLiza.

Femke Thijs

Femke Thijs is 23 years old and from Ghent. She is currently studying at ESMOD in Paris. She previously won the Hat Trophy at Waregem Koerse.

What can you already tell us about your winning design?

“My design process generally remains the same. I do a lot of research, decide on the color palette to use, work out a concept and start a drawing followed by a technical drawing. The design chosen was the very first design I prepared for this competition and I think it was the strongest of the three.”

“The theme of party wear or occasion wear suits my personality very well. I myself love to wear volume and clothes that often have an element of surprise or drama. Quite directly, I asked myself what a woman would wear to, say, a wedding, and so I ended up with my little black dress, a garment that is very accessible to many women. What I think is important is to put your own touch on your designs, which for me is with print. So I designed a matching cape with the print on it. The cape can be easily removed and gives a dramatic effect when you enter a room on a special occasion. My prints are often based on natural elements – flowers inspire me a lot. But more often than not I use an abstraction or blurred version of the flower. For this print I started by holding the flowers in water and photographing them through glass. That way you get a sort of mirror effect, plus a beautiful distortion of the flower.”

What inspired you?

“For the shape of my designs, I often draw inspiration from my own wardrobe, or silhouettes that have already been launched on the fashion market in the past. You can certainly innovate, but you can’t reinvent hot water, unfortunately. That is my guiding principle. There’s nothing wrong with being inspired by the past, but most of all you need to put your own stamp on it and make sure it stays modern. For color and textiles, I am guided by my feelings, I am very color sensitive, and often create surprising combinations. To me, colors and fabrics are like a puzzle, you start putting it down until every piece falls into place. When I’m working on my prints or fabrics, I keep laying out combinations until I’m warmed by the intense focus. That’s the moment I’ve found the key and it’s right for me. In other words, I am inspired mainly by color.”

What does this victory mean to you?

– Above all, it is a big boost. I struggled immensely as a fashion student and often lost the courage to continue believing that one day I would make it or be able to make a mark in fashion. Unfortunately, people continue to underestimate how very tough the fashion world is and how quickly you can lose confidence in the industry because of all the subjective reactions you get. The key is to always put your own values ​​first, and to know what your identity is.”

“Through this competition, of course, I hope that many people can enjoy my design, that it gives women the confidence to shine in the clothes they wear. I hope my participation can inspire young people to always believe that many things are possible. For myself, I hope this is a start or a further path to perhaps one day having my own brand or to collaborations with other brands. And it’s a nice culmination of the years of work I’ve done, but it’s also a pat on the back to all the lovely people who support me, from my parents Dirk and Marijke, to my best friends, and so many more people who have helped me over the years.”

Nanook Cools. Image via LolaLiza.

Nanook Cools

28-year-old designer Nanook Cools is currently studying costume design at the Belgian vocational training center Syntra. She has already graduated as a fashion designer from the City Academy (Stedelijke Academie) in Sint-Niklaas. She is also a stylist at No Babes Agency.

What can you already tell us about your winning design?

“I started from an illustration that I let my imagination run wild on, then translated it into the LolaLiza universe. In short, a playful color palette, a touch of rock and roll and above all, lots of prints.”

What inspired you?

“Cowboys, the LolaLiza woman as a protagonist in her wild west story. The female adventurer who rides the horizon.”

What does this victory mean to you?

“”It gives me the chance to share my universe with you and be seen as a young designer. A challenge to translate my creativity into a salable product. I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity and can’t wait to share the final result.”

This article was originally published on FashionUnited.BE. Translation and editing from Dutch to English: Veerle Versteeg.

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