On one of those rare sunny Spring days that we were granted, we found ourselves in the best company to have lunch in Brussels’ Sablon district. Present at the table with us were Koen, Charles and Clara. A fabulous young girl and the two most important men in her life, gathered at one of their favorite restaurants. Needless to say, it turned out to be a lot of fun. We know very well that every family has its own dynamic and were curious to hear their take on things, luckily Charles answered our questions with a broad smile.
First things first. How did Koen and you meet? You both work in the world of fashion – albeit different corners of that world – so is that how?
I’m a French citizen, originally from Paris. Yeah, I know, no one’s perfect (laughs). I came to Belgium after having lived in London for 5 years. I was 25 when I got here, and I met Koen very shortly after arriving… Lucky me (laughs). We met at a party and we were immediately drawn to one another, some things just can’t be denied. I came here to work for Levi’s Europe as a buyer and, at the time, Koen was a social worker… So, I guess I’m the one responsible for introducing him to fashion!
You seem like a perfectly Belgian couple, with both of you having a different native tongue (Dutch & French), was this always obvious or did it complicate communication at times?
We chose to speak French, as Koen’s French was already super good. I’m now OK-ish at Dutch. I guess that after being here for 17 years here, there’s no excuse anymore (laughs), even though I have to admit that Clara is still SUPER embarrassed whenever I try to speak Dutch in public (laughs).
We mainly speak French at home, but Dutch is definitely also part of the mix. Though we tend to argue in English, I don’t know why.
How did the decision to raise a child together come about? Was it an idea that grew organically with time or did both of you already have that desire from the get-go?
I guess the trigger was when my older sister got twins. It really hit me then that I was also very keen on having children. The twins soon became Clara’s best mates by the way, which is great to see as they’re 2 years older. Koen had ALWAYS been very clear to me since day one: he wanted to have kids at some point! The possibility to have a child naturally came when we met Clara’s mum. She made everything possible for us, which was amazing because I really wanted Clara to have a mother. I always loved my mum so much, so it seemed logical.
Obviously, Clara is raised in a non-traditional family and you seem to have found a nicely balanced structure that works for everyone involved. Would you mind elaborating a little on how exactly you make things function? I imagine that the practical side of things (juggling school, work, hobbies, weekends, holidays) is as complicated for you as it is for everyone else with kids or am I wrong?
Well, at the risk of this coming across the wrong way (laughs), we’d say that the best way to have and raise a child is through shared custody. Basically, one out of every two weeks she’s with us. Clara’s mum now also has 2 little boys with her husband, so Clara has an extended family there.
It’s fun I guess because we also have the freedom to enjoy ourselves in different ways, but I must say that we do miss her like CRAZY every time when she’s not with us. More and more, to be honest.
We are really close with Clara’s mum and her husband, so we hang out together regularly which unites our “non typical family”.
What we noticed and adored is the series of little traditions you have established with and for Clara, for instance the annual birthday lunch. Was this a conscious thing or something that just started happening along the way?
We really grew into this ritual and came up with it ourselves. I think the inspiration simply is Clara herself… She totally embraces our lifestyle, our friends and hang out places, so it came almost naturally to have these little reunions for her birthday at Chez Richard, with the pictures to go along with it. Maybe the fact that Sadri, who owns Chez Richard, is one of my best buddies also helped (laughs).
Doing what both Koen and yourself do for a living, I can imagine that aesthetics and a love for all thing creative are crucial. Is this something you try to transmit to your daughter? How does she look at the world of fashion?
That’s an interesting and complex point. I work for 2 denim brands – being Lee and Wrangler – while Koen deals with models and multiple brands. Clara is very sensitive to all of this, although we do try to put her at ease regarding the whole thing; clothes are nice and it’s important to have good taste, but it’s also merely just a step to feel good with yourself and to be comfortable in your own skin, to be happy. That’s what really counts. It can sound corny but it’s all true and we literary addressed this to her with those exact words.
Lastly, we’d love to wrap this up with a few quick q’s:
How did you get to know Bellerose and what does the brand stand for in your opinion? Bellerose is simply non-avoidable... and more over, it’s Belgian! To me it signifies a casual cool with beautiful understated details: the brand definitely is more about an attitude than a total look.
Favorite places to go with Clara in the greater Brussels area? We don’t go out shopping since we buy nearly everything online, instead we prefer hanging out in the woods with our dog Sammy – Clara chose his name - and we also love visiting exhibitions here and there. Clara especially enjoys when we have friends around, she stays up a bit longer with us and chit-chats with everyone… so nice!
Favorite places to eat? What would you recommend in your direct vicinity? La Meilleure Jeunesse remains our favorite, it’s where we take our friends and family when they visit for a weekend. Gazetta is also always a winner! Beautiful wine by the glass, casual high tables etcetera. We also often go to Jules & Charles which is a local restaurant in Woluwe. Their menu is always changing, you can eat at the counter, their staff is nice and friendly too. Le Vieux St. Martin is also ALWAYS a good experience.
Having a daughter is cool because… She’s like a little monkey all the time (laughs).Talking, making jokes, listening to music, always up for anything. As far as becoming parents goes, she really made it very easy for us. She constantly makes us realize what really matters and what doesn't.
Life as a father can be complicated because… Right now, I can’t see anything complicated about the fathers and daughter relationship! Let’s see when she gets older (laughs).
Interview : Bjorn Dossche
Pictures : Victoria Nossent