Brussels concept store Graphie Sud first opened in 1968 and was a pioneering fashion and lifestyle concept space in Belgium at that time. Olivia and Marine took over in 2017 and continue to curate womenswear along with items for the home. They believe in “combining ethics and aesthetics” and aim to take each of their customers on a journey through each and every garment within Graphie Sud, which they have sourced from across the globe.
We spoke to Olivia and Marine about joining forces to continue Graphie Sud three years ago, gaining inspiration from walks in the city and how relationships with their customers will always be the most important part of their roles.
How did you both meet and begin working together?
Olivia: We met during our studies at the University of Brussels where we were both studying anthropology. We met in the second year and since then we've been really good friends. We travelled together and we lived abroad in Latin America at the same time. We have a lot in common and share many inspirations, values, and things we love culturally. I think that's also what made us stick together. Over the years we always kept in touch as we both made our ways into the professional world, but at some point we were both in Brussels looking for a project. I was working at Graphie Sud with my cousin and when she left, there was an opportunity.
Marine, tell us about joining Olivia to continue the legacy at Graphie Sud and what areas you were keen to develop.
Marine: We both love displays, which for me, I think is really special because you have really a strong feeling when you walk up to the shop that makes you feel good. Our aim is to make you feel at home. We both used to come here when we were young with our mothers so the inspiration stemmed from this familiar feeling that’s part nostalgia and part excitement. And the opportunity was there. And so we decided that was the place for us to take over.
Graphie Sud was one of the first concept stores in Brussels mixing objects and clothing. For us, it was a lot of pressure because many of our customers have been coming here for many years, some since it opened in the ’60s. Our challenge was to keep its character, but try to evolve the space slowly to feel like ours. We have been here for three years now and put our own identity in the store. The first owner was really ahead of her time and this is also a challenge for us because you always have to renew but maintain an awareness of what current customers know and like - it’s a careful balance.
What makes Graphie Sud unique in Brussels?
O: I think one of the most important things we strive for is that our customers can find something for every generation. Sometimes we have the grandmother, the mother, the daughter all shopping here. So I think our philosophy is similar to the philosophy and values TOAST has. We try to combine modern, colourful pieces with more casual basics – items that won’t date that you can wear over time. We try to mix everything so that you can have an outfit that is special, but at the same time, it's not too complicated.
M: We have clients who tell us they have pieces from the late ’60s when Graphie Sud first opened - pieces they still love and wear today. That’s really important to us that we continue to offer pieces that are high quality that you can wear in five, ten or even 20 years time.
What makes these pieces at Graphie Sud stand the test of time?
O: We are trying to select fabrics that are more sustainable and work with brands that demonstrate how they are responsible in their approach. For the future it’s really important that we examine how we can improve so we are constantly looking at that.
M: Recently we've been talking a lot about up-cycling and trying to find a way to work with past season collections and include more vintage. It’s an ongoing discussion with lots of ideas that take time to put into place!
What do you enjoy most about living and working in Brussels?
O: When I have time I like to go to the centre of Brussels to a street called Rue de Flandre in a vibrant area called Sainte Catherine. There’s a lot of good restaurants and a mix between the Flemish culture of Belgium and the French culture, which creates a nice atmosphere - it almost feels like you’re in another city.
M: For art there’s a place we both love called Villa Empain, which is a beautiful Art Deco house established by The Boghossian Foundation. They have several exhibitions with artists and performances each year.
What next for Graphie Sud?
O: We have a lot of ideas and would like to introduce activities such as workshops to make Graphie Sud more active. We have also been working on a small collection with artisans in India using block prints. It works well within our range so I think it is something we will continue to develop.
Photographs by Lorraine Wauters.