“When I was a child my father used to play the French Chanson music of Belgian singer Jacques Brel on the record player in our lounge. I used to hate it; I couldn’t understand the words and his ugly, over-expressive face and big lips would beam up at me from the record sleeve. Now I find him beautiful and melancholic. Le Plat Pays – the flat country – is a beautiful song about Belgium, about the grey clouds that hang so low they feel as if they will fall on your head. It describes what I both love and hate about Belgium – that weather which creates the most beautiful light. I love words but I hate writing, which might be why I admire Brel’s lyrics so much. I don’t know if they came naturally to him; on stage you could see him struggle, both with his performance and his emotions. I think he had a love-hate relationship with performing that was totally authentic.”
At 33, Kaat Debo was handed a great responsibility: to represent the seismic impact that the tiny city of Antwerp has had on the global fashion industry. As the director of MoMu, the ‘mode museum’ there, Debo is given a seasonal budget from the Belgian government. She must act as a contemporary archivist, buying pieces from the collections of esteemed Belgian designers the minute they are unveiled. Her catalogue includes Raf Simons, Martin Margiela, and Dries Van Noten and the Antwerp Six. Debo must see, and seize, history as it happens. As a literature and philosophy graduate with no formal fashion training, it is a certain poetic sensibility that enables her to do so.
Hair: Massimo Gamba at Atomo Management. Make-up: Mary Cesardi at Atomo Management. Photographic assistant: Wilbert Lati. Styling assistants: Rebecca Perlmutar, Adri Lacaita and Sunnie Fraser.
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