By wearing a Shirts in Brussels shirt you show the beauty your neighborhood has to offer. During our first ‘stay-at-home’ period founder and full-time Brusseleir Kwinten Lambrecht (31) asked local illustrators to bring together the best of their quartier in one drawing for a shirt. The soon one-year anniversary of this brand and the launch of their new shirt ‘Madouce’ illustrated by Malika Tarhach, gave me enough ingredients to give both creatives a call.
Kwinten, how came the idea of Shirts in Brussels along?
‘During my many walks I realized there were so many hidden gems in Brussels that you usually don’t see when rushing around. I felt as if I had to share every neighbourhood’s little secrets and spots. There were no tourists at that time and I kind of wanted to be the anti-tourist shop for the Brusseleir and for people who wanted to visit our capital city. I thought: “What is better than wearing them while walking around in the quartier?” This is how the shirts idea was born.’
How did the first T-shirt come along?
‘It all started very small. I asked my close friend and illustrator Bram Algoed to make a drawing of Vorst for the first shirt. But then the orders came in so fast. I ended up seeing every street while delivering them in person by bicycle. Since this first shirt was such a success, I decided to tackle other neighborhoods. Through Instagram and via via I found illustrator Delphine Frantzen in Schaarbeek. For me it was important to work with illustrators living in the neighborhood since they are the real quartier experts. After Schaarbeek came Ixelles and now nine quartiers are covered. The most recent one is Madouce, referring to Saint-Josse. Here we collaborated with illustrator Malika Tarhach, better known as Malyqa.’
And that’s why, I decided to call Malyqa too!
Malyqa, what was your reaction when Kwinten from Shirts in Brussels asked you to illustrate your quartier?
It was exciting, but also challenging. I wanted to stay close to my own style that is very abstract, where forms and colors harmoniously fit together. For Shirts in Brussels, I had to make sure people could recognise certain elements of the neighborhood. This was a new equilibrium I had to find. The way I worked also changed a bit, I usually draw by hand. Now I started with drawing and then continued in Illustrator. It felt a bit like drawing in two languages, it taught me a lot of new stuff!
What was your creative process for this drawing?
Every day I worked one hour on the drawing, next to my other illustration work. This illustration needed a slow creative process. I enjoyed coming back to it every day and seeing it grow.
I also perceive the illustration process as a puzzle: you start with one piece and then the other elements come along. I first chose the colors blue and orange. The orange filled shape in the middle is the mother of the drawing who guides the other elements to find their equilibrium around it.
Then I started drawing elements of Saint-Josse. It’s a small neighborhood and most people know it from passing through it. The first building I picked was the Botanique. It’s such a great cultural space. I saw how symmetrical the building is and that’s why I decided to only show half of it, which you can see in the left corner.
After that, I added the map of Saint-Josse from birds-eye view. I also added the Astro Tower since everybody knows it. This building was more difficult and took me more time to draw in this way. My work is minimal and I don’t like too many details. I like it as simple as possible. Then I added little clin d’oeils as for example in the left corner you can see the labyrinth, this represents the Botanique seen from the sky.
We love the result! What do you think of the illustration yourself?
I’m happy how the whole puzzle came together. It’s not a drawing that is obvious to read and understand, but besides the Saint Josse-residents, I also want it to be worn outside the neighborhood. People should get to know Saint-Josse, I have been living here my whole life (27 years) and there are really fun places to discover.
Which places should we definitely visit in Saint-Josse?
Oh, you should definitely go to Jazz Station at Chaussée de Louvain. They have great concerts and exhibitions. The place is so cool, it is in an old train station. I feel like people don’t know it enough. I would also recommend the Théâtre le Public and Botanique of course.
For the best croissants and couques au chocolat you should go to Rue Verbist 34, they are the best I had already. For cheese I usually go to the cheese shop ‘La petite Vache’. It’s one of the oldest cheese shops, the owners are so nice.
Fashionistas can also find second hand shops in Saint-Josse, mainly at Chaussée de Louvain and Rue Verbist.
T-shirts are available for €29 at Shirts in Brussels – https://shirts.brussels/