The Belgian Designer Celebrating the 1980s With Aplomb

Alongside an exclusive video of her A/W17 collection, we catch up with Véronique Leroy to revisit the velvet-clad roots of her career

The first thing immediately visible about Véronique Leroy’s A/W17 collection is its unquestionable 1980s influence. Leroy certainly wasn’t the only designer to reference the decade this season, but she was perhaps the only one to do so via an abundant use of fabric that alluded to the kind of garish ensembles that might have graced the sticky dancefloors of European discothèques during the era. 

The fabric in question was a crushed velvet in acrid shades of sunburnt flamingo and dirty copper, ruched and gathered to form knee high boots, jumpsuits and belts, which were buckled with oversized plastic hexagonal fastenings. “It was to get back to my roots, the roots of my career. When I arrived in Paris during the 1990s I was the first to look back at the 1980s because no one really wanted to touch it – it felt too soon. Many people criticised me for that,” the designer tells me over the phone about the inspiration behind the show, a couple of days after its debut at Paris Fashion Week.

As our conversation continues, Leroy explains that she felt it important to document a certain mood aligned with the collection, and that a backstage film was the best means of doing this. And it was filmmaker Grégoire Dyer who she tasked with the project: “the stylist Georgia Pendlebury recommended him to me. I had actually never worked with him before,” she says. “We were in agreement from the beginning that we didn’t want to create a regular video – we wanted it to be more atmospheric. We wanted beautiful images rather than a chronological snapshot of the runway – and Grégoire was sure that he would use a mixture of 16mm film and digital video.” Leroy goes on to cite various other filmic influences in her work, noting the likes of the late Chantal Akerman and Cate Blanchett’s sweat-patch-riddled performance in Blue Jasmine, as inspiration. “I don’t want to stop here with film either. I’d like to document some my archive through film – and I would love to work with Grégoire again to make this happen.”

Despite the inherently tasteful film from Dyer, there really wasn’t modicum of anything traditionally palatable in the clothes that we were presented with in last week’s show. But Leroy (knowing her craft as she does) still managed to assemble a cohesive and desirable collection. And it isn’t the first time the designer has pulled off something like this, either; anybody who can recall the towelling-covered white platform sandals and zebra print A-line skirts she designed for S/S14, would surely attest to her ability to transform ‘tat’ into high fashion. Kicking against a demure Parisian sensibility, Leroy describes her A/W17 woman thus: “This woman wants to be part of the bourgeoisie, but at the same time she can’t bear it and wants to rebel. She sees everything neat, clean and just so and she wants to do something a bit crazy.” Well, don’t we all?