I first began a dialogue with the fashion designer, Niels Peeraer, on a train platform at Antwerp Central station, years ago. We were both inconveniently delayed by a late incoming train bound for Paris, due to heavy snowfall on the tracks beyond the city. I have vivid recollections, in part, of the conversations between us later onboard, as the train moved from Brussels towards the French capital. Niels was in the throws of completing a collection for his final fashion project at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp. I remember, as the sky turned to intense black outside, his vivid banter about the hunt he was about to undertake in Paris for synthetic fur – a material that was to form a pivotal role in his collection. I tried to imagine just how he would use this, but little did I know the brilliant and otherworldly forms it would eventually be manifested in.
Niels’ work cannot be, nor should it be, categorized as clothing for either man or woman. As Niels says himself, his work is “created for any dreamer who feels connected or touched by a piece, surpassing the boundaries of womenswear and menswear” and that are not afraid to be themselves in a world that is so often about fashion ‘rules’. In a non-aggressive way, it should be said, Niels’ world “is not about shocking or making a statement, it’s simply about bringing an innocent happiness to the serious everyday life”. Each individual collection is presented within a fantastical world created by Niels.
His collections, to date, have been made up of highly detailed pieces that are meticulously crafted by hand in materials such as fabric sheers, furs and leather. His design piece for the historic Belgian fashion house, Delvaux, is a clever take on a classic Japanese container.
Unlike many fashion designers who often create an imaginary world for others to inhabit whilst they themselves may appear dressed in the jeans/t-shirt uniform, Niels himself is a creature of his brilliant world. I ran into Niels again recently, by chance, on a street in Paris, where he is now based. It was an icy cold winter morning, and I remember him appearing suddenly near the exit of the Palais Royale courtyard as though he was in fact a pale faun stepping quietly from beyond the edge of a fog covered forest.
Photo credit: Wenn-Kee Hsu