Miss Jo and Norm, two talents in sight

Economy

Among the designers actively supported by Wallonie-Bruxelles Design Mode, two leading talents deserve special attention. Focus on Mademoiselle Jo, whose studio of design furniture and singular objects is located in Alsemberg, and on Norm, the Belgian champion of sneakers made with 90% recycled materials.


Mademoiselle Jo: authentic and sustainable design

Paris match. How did Mademoiselle Jo become the elegy design brand exported all over the world?
Giovanna Bebronne. Mademoiselle Jo comes from my name, the diminutive of which suited my project well. You should know that before this great adventure, I studied fashion design in La Cambre and then worked for 25 years in the lingerie industry as Liebaert’s artistic director. Three years ago I quit my job to fully pursue my passion. So I opened my own design studio whose vocation is essentially the small piece of furniture. I am helped in my task by Lauranne who is in charge of business development. She is really my second hand.

What do you mean by small furniture?
Our site is very explicit about this and includes all of our collections. All the pieces are designed here in Alsemberg, but also 90% designed and even manufactured in Belgium. In addition to small furniture, I offer poetic everyday objects that have a function in everyday life. They range from living room tables to Toupy coin trays in wood or turned stone, to Popy lamps in turned wood, to Youmy tables in folded metal. We also have very pretty soliflores as well as a collection of shelves with the most beautiful effect, such as those of the Simply collection in bent metal whose magnetized elements allow you to interpret all the geometric shapes of the Wally suspended shelves in leather finish.

From the Simply collection, this modular shelf is one of the unique objects and small furnishing accessories proposed by the designer. © Jehanne Hupin

How has Wallonie-Bruxelles Design supported you?
In more ways. In particular, I benefited from the Rayonnement Wallonie scholarship of several thousand euros, then from aid for Covid recovery from AWEX via Wallonie-Brussels Design and thanks to the institution I was able to participate in digital marketing workshops.

What kind of customers like your products that, let’s remember, are available on your online store www.mademoisellejo.com or at various retailers in the United States, Finland and Mauritius?
Yes, and far beyond, even though Belgium and France account for the majority of our market share. In fact, we have a very heterogeneous clientele of all ages, mainly from 30 to 70, people who love products with a great history. The palette is very wide and the architects themselves are very fond of our products because they adapt to all styles and can be found as harmoniously in a modern loft as in a Norman house.

What values ​​do you defend?
We try to work in the shortest possible circuit. My goal is to offer accessible design to as many people as possible with objects made by hand and in Belgium. All our products are aimed at those who love authentic and lasting design.
Mademoisellejo.com

Norm: The brand of virtuous basketball

Paris match. Would you have the courage to say that you are the pivot of these new sports shoes that have absolutely nothing to reproach themselves with? But first of all, why did you call your brand Norm?
Nicola Lavigna. Because we wanted to be the new norm, the new standard in the footwear market. When embarking on a new project like this one, it is necessary to integrate the notions of eco-responsibility, circularity and transparency from the outset. In fact, we try to fight environmental green washing, without possible compromises and in total transparency. You can easily find the standards used, materials and production sites on our site. This is part of our values.

It is a fairly recent adventure, but one that is gaining momentum.
Yes, after doing industrial design in La Cambre and working as a freelancer for several sports shoe brands, it all started in 2019 when we launched crowdfunding to raise € 60,000 to produce the first thousand basketball production pairs, half of which it had been preordained. These are recyclable sneakers, made partly by hand and partly by great knitters. The upper, or the upper part of the shoe, is crafted in a single piece from six plastic water bottles and the sole is made up of 70% recycled rubber. Everything is assembled in a factory in Portugal, north of Porto. The success was immediate when we proposed a single unisex model from 36 to 46 available in five colors. Alas, therefore, we have been stopped on our trail due to Covid.

Yes, but like a good sportsman you went back to jump better!
Exactly. We have won the Be-Circular award twice from Up Brussels for the first time and will be back with a brand new model that will arrive soon and is made with plastic recovered from the oceans. The overall silhouette of this shoe is more classic but we find the details dear to Norm: texture, logo, recycled ribbons and parts in recycled rubber. There will be four colors, white, black, beige and blue with a first production of 450 copies.

Nicolas Lavigna and Antoine Bodart are basketball champions made with 90% recycled materials. © Norma

Where will you find this new collection and the previous one?
On our shop for sale www.norm.supply, but also in Brussels at the Mat Plaizir concept store, in Antwerp from Moose in the city and in Louvain-la-Neuve in the Stoemp store.

There are two of you working on Norm, you for the design and manufacturing part and your partner Antoine Bodart for operations and marketing. What are your immediate projects?
In a month we will present our brand at the Pitti Uomo menswear fair in Florence. This will be our first contact with international buyers. We will take the opportunity to present our first short and long sleeve t-shirts in recycled cotton, a hat and a new pair of shoes also in recycled cotton but 100% waterproof.

Wallonia Brussels International, desire to influence

Wallonie Bruxelles International is the showcase of excellence for all French speakers in Belgium. In cultural matters, together with the Ministry of the Wallonia-Brussels Federation and AWEX, it has set up five specialized agencies whose goal is to train and export our businesses and cultural creators.

Among them, WBDM-Bruxelles Design Mode is, as the name suggests, specifically dedicated to fashion and design. It is present in many networks, researching in order to target new territories for our creators and provides them with support by providing personalized support.

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