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Éric Beauduin x ESPÈCES – Exploring upcycled leatherwork

Last June, during the Men’s Fashion Week in Paris, Eric Beauduin and ESPÈCES’ universes crossed. The project that emerged, baptized Naïve, perfectly captures the essence of their aesthetic approach

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Text by Marie Honnay
Photography by Laetitia Bica

15 years ago, through his fascination for tailoring and garment construction, La Cambre-educated designer Eric Beauduin began designing bags in upcycled leather. For the past five years, Marie Artamonoff and Sébastien Lacomblez (who trained, respectively, in jewellery and digital arts) have developed jewellery that pushes the classical concept of this accessory ever further, under the ESPÈCES brand. Last June, during the Men’s Fashion Week in Paris, their universes crossed. The project that emerged, baptized Naïve, perfectly captures the essence of their aesthetic approach.

TLmag: The basis of Naïve is three neo-African masks inlaid with pieces of metal and pearls. How did this project get started?
Éric Beauduin: Marie and I are regularly in contact. When you work alone, it’s important to create these types of meetings, and even to collaborate on shared projects. But its crucial to work with people who share your aesthetic vision. Such collaborations enable me to broaden my aesthetic vision, which is essential if you want to keep evolving in your work.

Marie Artamonoff: It’s an air bubble that pushed us to move outside our field of expertise. With ESPÈCES, we always like to explore other fields than jewellery.

TLmag: What links you together?
EB: I like the approach of ESPÈCES because they work with crystals, pearls, animal skeletons: in short, elements that are anchored in reality. In their work, just as in mine, the material is central.

MA: We collaborated on this project for around four months. The co-mingling of our techniques happened naturally as we moved forward in small steps. Each of the three masks expressed a stage in the evolution of our brand. Our first pieces focused on bones. Then we worked with moulded minerals. The last collection was based on pearls. 

TLmag: These masks are a showcase of your respective collections. Beyond their artistic dimension, do they play an important role in your business strategy?
EB: I have always been in favour of creating a strong image around my collections. The era of the showroom focussed solely on the product is well and truly past. It doesn’t really interest me. Marie and I want to create a space that is both a showroom dedicated to buyers, and also a gallery/boutique.

TLmag: This hybrid space reflects a sector that is changing fast. How do you envisage your commercial development?
MA: We are in Paris so we can meet international buyers, but the market is more and more competitive. Originally, we were mostly sold in luxury concept stores. These offered us good visibility, but not much in terms of sales… I believe more in niche jewellery boutiques, like Wild Bird in Paris, which offers a new perspective on contemporary jewellery. Through our travels, as well as through social networks, we are more and more easily in contact with individuals who like our jewellery. This has led to our idea to launch our own online boutique soon.

TLmag: Is this hybrid distribution approach now a ‘must’?
EB: In the past few years, I have opened an e-shop, revamped my Brussels boutique and initiated several collaborations. I am in total agreement with this trend. It’s rather amusing that this idea of hybridisation is also found in my accessories. One of my best-selling bags right now is a convertible that can be worn on the back or over the shoulder. In my last collection, Surface, I offered it in black lamb leather. 

TLmag: In the ESPECES approach, we also find this hybrid side…
MA: Our primary source of inspiration is nature. This time, we wanted to explore the Tahitian pearl, which we have matched with ultra-minimalist yellow gold wire hoops. This approach highlights the pearl. While it seems quite classical, its colour gives it a little ‘pop’ side that we like very much. In terms of shapes, I have created pieces that revisit the way in which we wear jewellery: rings that float on the finger, bracelets that merge with the top of the wrist, earrings that attach to the lobe in an unconventional way.

TLmag: Your approach is both contemporary and very traditional. Do you see a growing interest in the public for this type of product?
MA: I think that people’ tastes are evolving, but very slowly. Our work is based on a very extensive technical mastery, but what must predominate is of course an aesthetic irresistibility…

EB: Simplicity is the most difficult thing to achieve. In my bags, each detail counts. When I transform an old garment to make an accessory, I have to consider the structure of the leather, its colour, its thickness… Leather is a material that cannot be forced. To create a bag that is simultaneously beautiful, solid, comfortable and practical, you must first tame the material, then shape it. I have been working on this for 15 years. The main advantage of accessories – compared to clothing – is that in our very standardised world, they personalise your look. They are the antidote to fashion uniformity.

ESPÈCES ©Laetitia Bica

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