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Belgian Fashion Awards

Meeting with Rafael Jimenez, founder of the Plan 8 consulting agency, and member of the international jury of last edition of Belgian Fashion Award.

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Text by Marie Honnay

Organised in collaboration with Wallonie-Bruxelles Design Mode, the Belgian Fashion Awards recognise emerging or established talents in Belgian fashion. This new edition, whose finale took place on 11 October in Brussels, gave us the opportunity to speak about fashion and the challenges facing the sector with Rafael Jimenez, founder of the Plan 8 consulting agency, and member of the international jury.

TLmag: Belgian fashion is definitely being recognised abroad. Is the media recognition reflected in commercial recognition?
Rafael Jimenez: Unfortunately not. It is a shame, but that is the reality.

TLmag: How would you define a good designer?
R.J.: A good team coordinator. It’s always important to reiterate that we cannot achieve anything alone. The system today has become very complex: including in terms of sales timing and of targets that must be reached. Are you targeting B2B, B2C or industrial customers? In which markets? It is crucial to surround yourself with the right people for sales, PR, marketing and collaborations with shops.

TLmag: With all the upheavals in the sector, what are the key challenges for designers and brands today?
R.J.: Finance and strategic management. The fundamental question is how to differentiate yourself and how to determine the priorities in your business strategy. As consultants, we are often confronted with organisations that have limited resources. Defining a good strategy is therefore really essential. At Plan 8, this is the approach we offer to labels.

TLmag: Explain that…
R.J.: We help them to create a competitive added-value through a strong identity. This is probably the most important step of the process, but also the most complex and abstract. The labels must find ways to differentiate themselves on the market by clearly defining their ambitions and the tools at their disposal. Many designers and labels lack a sufficiently precise idea of the image they convey and the way they are perceived. The answer to these questions enables us to define a strategy. From there, we plan out several paths. I try to get feedback from influential people in the sector. I then share this information with the labels in order to build a real strategy.

TLmag: But at that point, the work is far from completed…
R.J.: We still have to develop a coherent strategy. The idea is to plan the collections over a period of three to four seasons. The difficulty is then to tell a story that is coherent in the long term, but which also has real immediacy. It’s about creating good products with the wow factor that is intimately linked to fashion …

TLmag: One of the prizes is for a recent fashion school graduate. What advice would you give this person?
R.J.: Firstly, to gain a maximum of experience by working for the fashion houses. Or else, find a good mentor.

TLmag: Over the past years, the term “young designer” has been used unrestrainedly. Does it retain any meaning today?
R.J.: In my opinion, the expression is very vague and devoid of meaning. It refers to brands or designers who work according to outdated models. However, labels like Vêtements or Filles à Papa are redefining the traditional term, to give it a new meaning.

 

TLmag: The Asian market is enormous. When someone wants to export, do they need to target it first?R.J.: It certainly cannot be ignored. In terms of brand growth, it is vital.

TLmag: What struck you the most during your jury participation?
R.J.: The rightness of the Belgian spirit, or at least the search and desire to go further.

TLmag: What brand is currently impressing you and why?
R.J.: Raf Simons, for his ability to be always at the forefront of design and at the heart of the industry’s strategic challenges.

Brussels Fashion Award, © Alexandra Bertels
Brussels Fashion Award, ©Alexandra Bertels
Brussels Fashion Award, ©Alexandra Bertels
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