Coffeeklatch

creative chit-chat

Distortom

Fashion designer and DJ

Distortom stands out and is hard to be ignored. His name is a combination of Distortion and Tom, a mishmash of personalities and styles. "Currently I’m stuck with the 90’s surfer’s boy look and I want my hair more blonde. I buy old rock T-shirts on the internet and in summer I wear skater shorts. I don’t know why but i do it anyway! At the end of the summer I will probably get sick of this style and get on to something new." Tom De Poorter does what he feels like and he loves all things that clash. He is a designer at Essentiel and a DJ. We meet for tea and cake in his apartment in Antwerp.

 

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Your apartment is a collection of curiosities. Stuffed animals on the walls and a crow's claw around your neck, yet no live animals in sight. Are you an animal lover?

 I don’t know why, but I often buy paintings of birds and I also get them as gifts from friends. People assume that I have a thing for birds, but I really don’t understand why. The sculptures of stuffed animals and my necklace are works of Reid Peppard, a friend of mine, former student of Central Saint Martins in London and a taxidermist. She makes artworks out of dead animals, lugubrious work, but also funny. She always has ziplock bags stuffed in her purse. When she finds a dead animal on the street, she picks it up, freezes the remains, makes molds and transforms them into works of art or miraculous jewels. She is sometimes compared to the jewelry designer Pamela Love, although she has been active for a very long time and Lady Gaga is also a heavy fan. Her grandfather is none other than Hannibal Smith from the A-team. How cool is that? (laughs) She keeps this a secret though...

 

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Your house has such an eclectic style. What’s the story behind it?

When I bought this apartment, I invited all my friends for tea and cake. And when I realized I had no table, someone said: "I have one, I’ll bring it along to your party." The table is now full of stickers and it will stay here until I've found a new one. A lot of the furniture pieces that you see here, I received from friends and I’ve mixed it with Ikea stuff. My interior is improvised, but I like it this way.

 

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I am very curious about the story behind the big staged photo in the hallway.

That photo was a gift from my friends for my 34th birthday. It’s a photo of all my friends portrayed in special outfits carrying objects that refer to a story or situation which we’ve experienced together. While I was in London, they came all together in my house, and they organized a photo shoot with the photographer Frederik Heyman. Upon my arrival, I noticed that some things were not in place. The changes were subtle, but I still felt that something was wrong. I am very pleased with the picture!

 

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And we also see a lot of holiday souvenirs. Do you travel a lot for your job?

No, I travel too little. If you work in the fashion industry, you need to follow a very strict rhythm. I try to make a long journey once a year. But I do go twice a year to Hong Kong for Essentiel. The energy there is really fantastic! That’s where it all happens! The shops and gadgets are great and the people are friendly. There are neighborhoods filled with small shops selling buttons, beads, sequins, ... a real maze, but very inspiring. I don’t speak Chinese, but that’s not necessary, because Chinese people speak English. More than that: they give themselves English names, which can be very funny and original. There’s a big chance that at Starbucks, you get served by a boy who calls himself 'Zombie' (laughs). What fascinates me is the high level of consumption in China. At the opening of the new Apple store people were stepping over each other.

 

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So if Essentiel would move to China...

Then I would say: YES! Chinese are very well styled. Belgians look dull and I think that's unfortunate. Young women here walk around dressed like grannies. They are followers, very careful and opt for neutral colors like gray, beige and brown. Colors we would never use at Essentiel.

 

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You design mainly women’s wear. How would you describe the Essentiel woman?

It is not someone who slavishly follows fashion, but knows what'ss happening in the fashion scene and she just plays with it. The woman who chooses Essentiel is a woman who likes to mix and she only wears the pieces she really likes. We, as a fashion team, we edit a lot and we are very strict in our selection. Fashion is evolution and we are happy to evolve. I think this attitude benefits the collection. Our team has four members, and we mix our styles all together. No style is definitive and it can all clash. The clash just makes it more interesting. If one season we go for the high school look, then next season we select a totally different trend. I don’t like to remain too long on the same page. The same goes for my music. One day it’s techno, the other day it's rock. Music genres depend on my mood, it's never predictable. I react continuously to things, but it’s something I need to do. I never do what people expect from me and I like to surprise myself. It is not an identity crisis; it's just who I am and how I work. I like to mix everything up until it turns into a new story. And when I do this, it’s always instincitively. There is no system behind it.

 

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Did you always know you wanted to be a fashion designer?

When I was 11 years old, I was already drawing silhouettes. For me it was very clear what I wanted to be. After graduating from the Antwerp Fashion Academy, I lived and worked in Spain for two years. In Belgium I worked for Nicole Cadine and Caroline Biss, where I followed the production process from A to Z. And now I’ve been working for the Belgian fashion house Essentiel for 5 years.

 

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Did you ever have the ambition to start your own label?

Occasionally it itches, but my job at Essentiel requires a lot. But weather I’ll still be designing dresses when I’m 50 - that’s something I honestly don’t really think about. A lot has changed in the fashion world in the last few years. There are so many designers but what to do in order to stand out from the crowd? Thanks to the Internet you can now show your designs to the world much faster and get a huge audience. But this too is not easy and certainly not obvious. There are so many good designers out there! There were times when you could be a rebel, but that has become much more difficult. Fashion has become a true business.

 

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About Coffeeklatch

Coffeeklatch stands for ‘Slow journalism using a fast medium.’ Magali Elali and Bart Kiggen created the blog as a creative chitchat featuring creative entrepreneurs in their homes over coffee, including interesting people telling intriguing stories. It celebrates storytelling and creativity in all its forms, from fashion design to architecture. Read More

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