Lucia Esteves: The Soul of Lifestyle
Dedicating her life to promoting Belgian and international crafts, Lucia Esteves spoke to TLmag about her attitude to “lifestyle” trends, her boutique stores and ceramics.
Owner of an eponymous boutique centred on the universe of the house, and of la Forêt, a store dedicated to tableware, both located in Brussels’ Ixelles neighbourhood, Lucia Esteves dedicates her life to promoting Belgian and international crafts. TLmag recently caught up with Lucia to talk about this passion of hers — as well as the evolving concepts behind her stores, her attitude towards “lifestyle” trends and her interest in ceramics.
TLmag: At the beginning of the year, you changed the concept for your Lucia Esteves store. Clothing is out, replaced by a redesigned lifestyle offer. Why did you make this choice?
Lucia Esteves: In my first shop on rue de Washington, I only offered ceramics and household linens. Then I added indoor and ready-to-wear clothing. What turned me away from fashion is that I don’t consider myself to be… fashionable! I am not a follower. The rhythm dictated by the sector doesn’t work for me. The rules that they impose on boutiques are like steamrollers. So I wanted to get back to my basics. I don’t see my job as creating interior decoration. For me, a successful home is a place where you feel a real connection between the people and their fundamental needs. I am very attentive to the energies that circulate within a house.
TLmag: Is it important for you to promote and protect traditional craftmanship?
L.E.: I do prefer hand-made products, most often in limited series. But when I am choosing new brands or handicrafts, I don’t really think about it at that level. Even the home linens my father produces in Portugal (using semi-industrial production) pass through the hand of craftswomen. They have been working hand-in-hand with him: some for more than 40 years. They are part of our family. You cannot explain the sensibility of an object. You have to feel it.
TLmag: At la Forêt, you shine a spotlight on Belgian ceramics talents, like Tristan Philippe. How do you find them?
L.E.: When I opened this boutique, I wanted to offer something different from the industrial brands, but finding craftspeople whose universe fits with mine is not so easy. Tristan Philippe is a friend, but above all he is an alchemist. He juggles powders and enamels like no-one else. His shapes are simple. Everything happens at the level of colour. In his way, he controls chance.
TLmag: Ceramic is a pleasing product. Tell us why.
L.E.:Three years ago, when I had the idea for the la Forêt boutique, I didn’t know that ceramic objects would rouse such a keen interest. Everything started from a personal desire. I am constantly in motion (so I am in the yang). But I feel that earth rebalances me. It lets me recharge my batteries, to calm myself. It is as if I have added yin to my life. La Forêt is a hidden store where time stands still. There is no concept of product perishability. This is what people want today: to get away from the immaterial and move towards timelessness.
TLmag: The word lifestyle is often overused. Given the formatted nature of the offer at brand-name stores, is there still a place for craftspeople?
L.E.: I have used the expression “lifestyle” for 25 years. The word may currently be overused, but I don’t have any desire to change my ways. In my boutique, I support the idea of “less, but beautiful”. Someday, the trendy brands will forget the word lifestyle, and move on to another. Not me.
TLmag: Is this return to earth the consequence of a world that is moving too quickly?
L.E.: You know, I am the first to move too quickly. I need to see everything, know everything. Every morning, I walk in the forest with my two dogs. If you don’t give yourself some calm space, and you always go at 100 an hour, you end up feeling a terrible frustration. Nature has the gift of rebalancing everything.
TLmag: With your two shops in the capital, have you noticed an increased interest in local shops?
L.E.: I would like to say yes, but unfortunately, I believe that we are living in the last days of the neighbourhood shop. Soon, our shops will be more like showrooms. We will offer an ambiance, presentation, but the purchase itself will be on-line. Economically speaking, it is almost impossible to pay salespeople and to keep enough stock to remain competitive with the big shops.
TLmag: Since 2005, the year you opened your first shop, the sector has strongly evolved. In what way?
L.E.: At the time, concept stores had the wind in their sails. Over the past five years, in-shop sales have significantly declined. In terms of selection, we can no longer compete with the monobrands that offer their entire collections in their shops, and whose margins are so much better than ours. After two difficult seasons, most small boutiques have to close, while the brand-name stores maintain their stability thanks to on-line sales. Except perhaps for the fashion houses where service is an integral part of the concept, clothing boutiques have no future. At our level, interior design, we need to offer a very personal selection and centre our approach on the human.
TLmag: Considering the international dimension of Brussels, your clients are Belgian but also foreign. How do they perceive Belgian designers?
L.E.: You only have to walk through the Maison & Objet show in Paris to understand that what is so pleasing about Belgian design is not the design itself as much as the sensibility we put into its creation. In Paris, things are more intellectualised, more polished. Here in Belgium, you can feel the generosity and sincerity behind each object. We create with heart.
Cover Photo by Laetizia Bazzoni