The WWW's — A Chat with Wies and Els from AWardt

Have you heard of The WWW’s? Through this section on our website, you’ll be able to get to know our clients a little better, as we’ll dive deep into the WHO, WHAT and WHY of their brands. Intrigued? Then read on to discover more!

Meet Wies and Els, mother and daughter, and the two faces behind AWardt. This Belgian label offers its own designs of characteristic handbags, hats and scarves, which are all crafted in Belgium. The designs distinguish themselves in terms of structure, texture and contrasts, and are all customizable in size and colour. AWardt is your go to-brand for statement accessories, but the label has also developed a BASIC collection for clients with a more minimalistic mindset, as well as a bridal collection. Get to know AWardt better by reading the interview below!, @awardt_wies_els

Hi Wies & Els! Could you please introduce yourselves and tell us something about your backgrounds and education?

Hi! We are Wies and Els, mother and daughter, and the faces behind Belgian label AWardt. Many years ago, we decided to go to night school together to learn how to make hats. There, we not only found a creative outlet, but an entirely new profession! From that moment on, we - a former arts teacher and interior designer - have completed a long course, including seven more years of night school.

We launched our own brand and named it ‘AWardt'. With our label, we stand for 100 accessories in 100 colours! The name ‘AWardt’ is derived from a wart, which we think has a beautiful structure, and ‘Ward’, a boy’s name, and thus has nothing to do with a trophy! *laughs* Right from the start, we have been very idealistic and ecological: we do not participate in long-distance transport or production in low-wage countries. On the contrary, we work with European tanneries and manually produce all handbags in Belgium. For this, we received the HIB logo and recognition as craftswomen!

How, where and when did you come up with the idea to launch your brand AWardt?

AWardt was founded in 1997 and initially only produced hats. In 2002, however, we noticed an increased demand for handbags and added these to the collection. Turns out we had more fun creating bags, so we never stopped making them. ‘Chair de poule’ was our first handbag collection. It honored the wart in our name as well as our fascination for natural materials and their imperfections. 2002 was also the year we opened our flagship store in Mechelen.

What’s it like to work with your mother on a professional basis, Els? And Wies, what is it like to work with your daughter?

We complement each other perfectly! Wies is the creative and chaotic type, *laughs* while Els is more practical and realistic. This combination works perfectly! That’s not to say that there are no discussions, but then “papi” (husband to Wies and father to Els) can always be called upon as moderator.

Can you give us a little insight into your design process? Where does your inspiration come from?

All our collections are built in the shape of a pyramid. The top is where we let our creativity go wild. We’ll go all out without taking commercial potential into consideration. On a lower level, you’ll find designs that are more accessible and affordable, but no less beautiful or pronounced. Design-wise it doesn’t matter if an item is on the upper or lower level, because we create everything together. We’ll mention a theme and start brainstorming. Afterwards, we’ll head to the drawing board and the final result will be a fusion of both of our ideas.

Our inspiration comes from photographs, leaves, animals, ... anything that gets stuck in our head can grown into a new line. The common thread is structures, textures and contrasts. Think smooth as opposed to carved, scaled and lobed, glossy and matt, new and patinated. We like to use pieces of leather that normally get thrown away, as they reveal authenticity. Think of the armpit of an ostrich and the bum of a crocodile. As you can see, we like to experiment, and we’re always on the lookout for textures and structures that will lead us to new forms and materials. We’ve done so with plastics, adhesives, varnishes, ... There’s a reason our brand can be described as timeless, stubborn, physical, flexible, colourful, daring, funny, contrasting, sculptural and daring! Quite the mouthful *laughs*

What’s the craziest thing you guys came up with design-wise?

Oomph, we have so many 'crazy' projects! We love to alternate between wearable handbags and the occasional odd duck! Those that come to mind are the handbag with the chicken feet, the cat-bag, the brothel bag, but also our balzac... The top of our pyramid (see the previous question)!

Where would you like to see AWardt in 5 years time? What are your dreams for the future?

With covid-19 in mind, we’re focused on keeping our company healthy and hope to still be standing in five years. On a happier note, we hope to see AWardt turn into the go to-label for original and quirky, yet wearable and timeless handbags.

What advice would you give to people who are considering starting their own business?

Go for it! There’s too much uniformity in today’s market, so do your thing passionately and stay true to your individuality. A bonus would be to gain a little bit of experience elsewhere. We never did that and our journey was marked by trial and error ;-). If we had gained some insight beforehand, we might had been able to avoid beginner’s mistakes.

Thank you, Wies and Els, for the inspirational talk! We wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors!
Intrigued and want to know more? Check out AWardt and get inspired.

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