We continue our entrepreneurship series with a story about Monty’s accessories – a Belgian independent design label focusing on men’s accessory and specialising in leather goods and socks. It is founded by the creative duo – Katie (English) and Nicolas (Belgian). We spoke to Katie Genart, creative desginer and one of the founders, to learn more about the brand and their life in Brussels.
Can you tell us about you, who are the people behind the brand?
We are a married couple; Nicolas is a true Bruxellois and Katie is originally from Yorkshire in England. After living in many communes of Brussels, we are now settled in Saint-Josse-ten-Noode and this latest move has brought many exciting decisions for us.
The first came as a puppy in which we named Monty. His arrival coincided with plans of starting a fashion label. As the two grew together, it seemed fitting to name the business ‘Monty’s Accessories’, bringing a series of jokes of who is the real boss!
Tell us more about your background and why did you start your own label?
The idea of owning a fashion label was always Katie’s pipedream as a teenager. After achieving a degree in fashion design in 2008, Katie worked for a handful of high street retailers for more than 10 years. It was evident that designing for fast fashion was becoming more and more undesirable and this was where the idea of Monty’s began.
It took a couple of chance meetings with smaller artisan workshops and a few great connections with friends who were already independent, for Nicolas to urge and support the idea of starting a label. We prepared a business plan which incorporated our values and ethics and in late 2019 the long-held dream became a reality.
You say that Monty’s is a “Belgian independent label that designs and creates authentic, high-quality accessories for men”. How do you differentiate your business from others?
We design solely on inspiration and not trends. At Monty’s, we love a play on words for inspiration and often our ideas are created from a quote or an object that sparks the design. A new design can literally come out of the blue which means our products will always have originality.
In today’s retail market, we position ourselves as a slow-fashion label. We believe in ‘buy less, choose well and make it last’.
Our desires are not to be haute-couture in which clothing can only be worn for certain occasions or fast-fashion where the life expectancy of the garment is short. Our desire is for our customers to love what they buy, wear often and enjoy longevity.
We are fortunate to work with the best supplier’s and artisans in Italy, Portugal and England who use their skills and quality materials to produce superior products. It’s a real joy to hear the feedback from our first customers who are still wearing their socks regularly and are amazed they have no holes.
What was it like to start an independent label right before the global pandemic?
Not ideal. Let’s face it, it’s been a bumpy ride. Online has been great and having a website has certainly helped with sales.
However, we are extremely sad when we lose independent shops that stock us. Most people don’t see the person or family behind the store and one of the biggest pleasures is to be able to meet and know the shop owners, all of which are following a dream like us. We urge everyone to shop local and support small businesses.
Your experience with Brussels? Things you like and things you would change?
The list for us is endless. The diversity of the people who live here is a privilege to be part of. The blend of cultures and different vibes from each commune is unique too. Brussels has a really relaxed mood about it with a fun sense of humour, from the obvious Manneken Pis to self-mockery of the scaffolding holding up the Palais de Justice. The people are what make the city so endearing.
It doesn’t matter how many times you walk the streets, you can still spot new architecture that’s purely outstanding. We suppose that rolls into the question of what things we would change. Some of the planning decisions are questionable with extreme, random ugly buildings being placed in between outstanding structures has always puzzled us but we suppose that’s what makes Brussels Brussels!
Where can people discover your accessories – online and offline?
You can visit us online at: www.montysaccessories.com
We’d also like promote www.leseshopsbelges.be This is a platform where you can find hundreds of labels that are unique like ours; it’s got a great range of different products and all from Belgian independent brands.
If you’re in town and wandering in Marolles, you can also visit Belge une fois at Rue Haute 89, Arthur & Natacha. This is a superb concept store which stocks our products. Or if you’re across town, say hello to Jean-Louis the owner of Bel’arte, a fantastic gift shop located down Rue de Flandre, near Saint Catherine.