A Letter From Mireille & Imke
Bellamy Gallery was found by friends Mireille van der Sprong and Imke Bens who earned their spurs in the fashion industry and saw that it was time for a change.
Vision for a better world
Self-made business women with a vision for a better world, a burgundian background, a love of craftsmanship and expertise in production and refined colour combinations. For them, clothes are about character and well-being. During a brisk walk in the woods - one lives in the city, the other by the sea - we discuss the heart of Bellamy Gallery and future ambitions.
Imke: 'We know each other from the Meester Koetsier-school (now: AMFI, or Amsterdam Fashion Institute) and over the years we have become friends. For years, we worked in different positions in fashion - from purchasing manager to consultant and board member. This has given us access to all layers of the industry - both the beautiful and the ugly sides.
Mireille: 'For Bellamy I am the strategist and designer, Imke the operational right and left hand.
Imke: 'In terms of character we fit together. Mireille is intuitive, analytical and strategic, and in this phase of her life she notices that living in nature and finding more relaxation - also for the creative process - are important. She is decisive and smart, but also very direct. Mireille guards the helicopter view, I am the one who immediately goes into go-mode. I hardly ever see any bears on the road.
Mireille: 'The seed for Bellamy was planted during a joint autumn break. In the meantime, Imke had become part of my team. We saw from close by how it is mainly about money, and not at all about love for the trade, a well-made product. Let alone the well-being of the world or of the people who ultimately make that product possible. In many traditionally financially driven organisations, the focus is on increasing the margin every year. To achieve this, someone or something has to pay the price: the staff members in the office and in the shops, in the factories, the environment or the quality of the product.
Mireille: 'It became increasingly difficult to stick to my intrinsic values, and that is how Bellamy came into being. A brand that just does well and does not act at the expense of anything or anyone. No greenwashing with a checkmark of a quality mark and done, but a healthy business that simply wants to do good.'
Averse to fashion-fashion
Imke: 'We both have nothing to do with fashion as in excesses and trends. Personally, I do like the fast, result-driven character of a garment. Although that is more from the point of view of an article of use that people enjoy every day. Think of a high-quality jumper that lasts for years and that you can wear anytime, anywhere: to a weekend on the Vlieland, while skiing, in spring as a coat. I don't know any women's brands that have an item like an elegant summer short or a cognac-coloured belt in their collection unchanged. We do, and we still stand by it. Designed only to become more beautiful.
Mireille: 'For me, clothes are not about fashion, but about character. Last weekend I came from Portugal and looked at the passengers from a distance. With what they wear, they communicate who they are - loud, quiet, subdued, sensitive to brands or not. With Bellamy Gallery, we want to strike that chord and subtly accentuate someone's personality.
Into fashion with a diversion
Imke: 'Initially, I wanted to study literature. At the same time I was looking for the combination between the academic and the practical. An HEAO (higher vocational education) with textiles offered various subjects, such as pattern drawing, where you were also busy with your hands. That appealed to me. Mireille comes from a real textile family.
Mireille: 'My father had factories and my mother clothes shops. So I come from an entrepreneurial family. At the same time, I saw how much stress it brought with it. I did not have a very loving childhood, so I developed an aversion to that life. I wanted to become a chartered accountant like my uncle, a stable profession, unfortunately these courses were also available in Brabant. But to get out of the very painful family situation, leaving home was the only option. My parents agreed to study at Master Coachman. Then after the coachman, I went to university and completed business administration. Mireille: 'Because of my miserable childhood, I always had to convince myself that I was safe and the only way to achieve that is by proving it, by acting. By working hard, getting higher, that would ease my pain'. Until I dared to feel, dared to stand still....and that's where Bellamy Gallery was born together with Imke - my bestie'.
Mireille: 'I don't get inspired by art- or design movements. Somewhere I am still that chartered accountant, analytical and practical. I am not a designer of catwalk fashion; to be honest, that does not interest me and has little added value in my opinion, if you look at the world (and the climate crisis) we are living in now. We at Bellamy design and make for a better future. Something you can wear often and often, that's the essence of sustainability because it stays. We don't shout this conscious ethos from the rooftops, as we believe sustainability should not be a trend but the norm. I can hardly hear "sustainable" anymore, because it has become a hollowed-out marketing term.'
Back to basics
Mireille: I want to go back to: The Perfect Blouse, The Perfect Sweater, The Perfect Jacket. I'm now working on a tailored, classic blazer, double-breasted with gold-coloured buttons. Always right. This is how we started: for men, women and children. Now we mainly focus on women, but the men's line is ready for next winter. While designing, I think in terms of solutions. In my head, a brainstorm develops: what would the ideal blouse look like? Then I start thinking about it in detail. Almost a mathematical approach. This is how I made a great pair of cotton trousers. They can remain in the collection, but will be developed further and further, for example with a better fastening. I am a perfectionist by nature. With this kind of slow fashion you can take the time to do what you do really well.
Imke: 'With almost only natural materials. At least 90% of the best silk, cashmere, linen. A little elastane and polyamide is sometimes needed for comfort and to preserve the item. Ideally, of course, you would like to be able to put something in the ground after it has been worn for a long time and have it blend in with nature.'
Mireille: 'We should be proud of what we have produced. It is honest and of an amazing quality, for which you pay relatively little. We are so affordable because we have almost no margin. We did not start out for the sake of profit, but for the opposite: for a sincere, beautiful product and to challenge people to wear their clothes for longer.
Imke: 'Our customer sometimes needs more explanation. For example, why we give our boxes a second life'.
The Bellamy signature
Imke: 'Timeless, seasonless, for every generation at an insanely good price-quality ratio'.
Mireille: 'High quality, refined, beauty in the everyday and in simplicity. Although I'm not a minimalist (laughs), it does have to have a bit of schwung, a twist like an extra piping. It has something French in the sense that I would characterise Bellamy as 'charming'.'
Imke: 'We also have solid fits. Not androgynous, but designed for a round female body. The Hilde cashmere jumper has a longer hem, which makes it suitable for different arm lengths. Details like these are important, because they make a garment truly sustainable. The design must always meet three requirements: fit well, remain beautiful and combine well. Mireille: 'By the way, I really like beautiful things. The other day I went with my husband and children to the Escher museum in the Palace of Queen Emma. I can really enjoy his art and the thinking behind it. Intelligent and thoughtful.
The older I get, the more sensitive I become to my surroundings. Put me in a log cabin without hot water and sleeping on the floor or in an exceptionally good hotel where everything is styled down to the last detail. It's about atmosphere and soul.'
Community and heritage
Imke: 'Bellamy translates from French into "beautiful friend", and for us that means your very best, cherished friend in your closet.
Mireille: 'It is also the surname of a renowned businessman of seventy-eight with whom I worked. The name is European and has a certain heritage.
Mireille: 'For Bellamy, that heritage lies in bringing craftsmanship back to Europe. When we started a factory in Southern Europe six years ago, it was not yet such a matter of course. That choice was partly the result of my own experiences. When I was young, production in the Netherlands and Belgium was too expensive, so my father had to work with Polish workers. That contributed to the disruption of our family.
Since then, society has become increasingly about money. But I remember fifteen ladies sewing, knitting and singing with the radio on in our workshop. There was so much joy in that.
Imke: 'With little effort, but what you invest in is of the highest quality. That is Bellamy Gallery, and we got that philosophy from home. In a farming family like mine, it was always about good meat, fresh vegetables, making everything yourself - like my aunts did with their own weeding - or buying locally from friends. Using simple ingredients to create something delicious. It doesn't have to be chef-like with all the bells and whistles, but pure, recognisable and loving.
More than a fashion brand
Imke: 'We want to be more than a fashion brand. A destination where we raise awareness among our customers so that we can all contribute to a healthier planet for people and nature.
Mireille: 'Initially, the idea was to grow Bellamy into a "gallery": the place where you can find a collection of the very best in every field. Like Mason Pearson's best hairbrush. You can hang anything on it, including travel and art.'