The Sisters of Rue Blanche
Through anniversary collaborations, a new communication strategy and international dreams, Aude and Astrid Regout are combining heritage and reinvention at Rue Blanche
Two years ago, sisters Aude —the brunette, in charge of communications— and Astrid —the blonde, in charge of the business side— decided to take over from their mother, Marie-Chantal, founder of the Belgian brand Rue Blanche. Their undertaking: to capitalise on the history of the brand, which celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this year, while simultaneously reinventing it. And between “anniversary” collaborations, a new communication strategy and international dreams, this duo of thirty-somethings have never lost their direction —quite the opposite!
TLmag: This year marks the thirtieth anniversary of Rue Blanche. When you are leading a company that steers clear of bling and ostentation, how do you celebrate such an achievement?
Aude Regout: We definitely wanted to create buzz. Until quite recently, the brand’s policy was discretion. So, in 2017, it became urgent to make some noise, but not just in any way.
Astrid Regout: Each season, we try to deliver a new message. In 2015, we communicated around our beginnings at Rue Blanche. This year, to mark the label’s 30 years, we have set up collaborations with brands that we love, including some we have already worked with.
TLmag: How did you choose them?
AuR: From the outset, we decided to concentrate on accessories, for commercial reasons —accessories are easy to sell. We approached a number of brands that we like, sure that some would say “no.”
AsR: But that didn’t happen! So we worked on three collaborations per season, for a total of 12, spread out over 2017.
AuR: This winter we are offering Spring Court trainers; it’s an appropriate choice, as this family company, founded in 1830 is, like us, going through a complete renaissance. Then, there is the long love story between Italian label Faliero Sarti and Rue Blanche. I think my mother was one of the first in Belgium to believe in this brand. And finally, K-way —a less obvious choice, perhaps. But we love the quality of the products. This concept of quality is one of our own fundamentals.
TLmag: Speaking about your DNA, how would you describe it?
AuR: Our trademark is knits and quality materials in general.
AsR: Our chromatic palette, as well.
TLmag: Are these the foundations you have built your reinvention on?
AsR: Yes, especially by giving more freedom to our designer, Céline Collard. Our challenge each season is to find the right balance between sure values and bolder offerings. The idea is to offer a real stylistic added value through each collection. For the past two years, we have involved the entire team in this work. We try to encourage the exchange of ideas around Céline’s proposals.
TLmag: Are you satisfied with the results?
AuR: This winter, yes. The current collection has some strong pieces: the denim jumpsuit, the green waxed trench coat and the tweed and velvet jacket.
TLmag: The inspiration is a bit British. Does this suit you?
AsR: Our mother always had a certain weakness for the English mix of tradition and boldness [she smiles], and for the beauty of their gardens. She loved to integrate more romantic accents onto a minimalist base. Everything was reviewed down to the smallest detail. And yet the result stayed fresh and nonchalant.
TLmag: Is England your principal source of inspiration?
AuR: We often make small trips to London, but also to New York. Our mother comes with us. We spend time in the stores, but also out in nature, which is an essential element for Rue Blanche.
AsR: The Scandinavian countries inspire me, as well. I lived there for five years; I think that is why I am so fascinated.
AuR: Starting this year, we have an ambassador in Denmark, an artist. Her work inspires us a lot, as does her style. At this stage, we feel more comfortable with this type of collaboration.
AsR: The bloggers all end up looking the same. Their views are formatted. What they publish on the internet often lacks substance. We prefer to share our universe with women we feel closer to: to give a few examples, there’s young Belgian horsewoman Déborah Walravens, or there’s Bénédicte Bantuelle, the co-owner of the restaurant Bouchery and professor of design at La Cambre.
TLmag: Reinvention happens through communication, but also through exportation, wouldn’t you say?
AuR: This is an aspect of our development that we are approaching very cautiously. Before exploring new markets, we must be very robust. Until now, we have preferred to wait, observe and refine our approach.
TLmag: Especially as the fashion sector is in such turmoil in terms of the rhythm as well as the distribution and communication channels. How do you perceive these changes?
AuR: We are exploring certain pathways, such as digital, where we are moving in particular towards a strong presence in social media channels. We are also developing pre-collections. Today, this is almost a requirement. But it’s important to note that this choice involves a huge increase in workload. For a small structure like ours, this is anything but insignificant. For the moment, we are clearly in a test phase. Like many brands, we are trying to find ourselves. It’s difficult… and exciting at the same time.
TLmag: What does the future of Rue Blanche look like?
AuR: It is certainly based on a dynamic momentum. We like to surround ourselves with young collaborators, such as Laura Greindl, the designer and owner of Atelier 365, who designed our boutique in the Louise neighbourhood. Or Mous Lamrabat, who photographs our campaigns. These people who like the brand are our best ambassadors.