Brussels. I leave the busy city life behind me when I enter the cozy apartment of Isabel Naesens, founder of the Belgian brand COMME LES LOUPS (literally translated as ‘like the wolves’). From the first moment we met, I was surprised and charmed by Isabel’s disarming honesty and spontaneity. Time to have a chat!
As the middle sister in a row of three, she always has been ‘the creative’ one in the family. Although Isabel is an architect, she decided to switch position a couple of years ago. Since then she colors the world a bit more by creating the most beautiful bow ties ever. It all began in 2013 with a self made blue bow tie she created for her boyfriend Sam to match her cobalt blue dress for her sister’s wedding. Many bow ties followed afterwards.
‘Entre chien et loups’
This French expression seemed to define the right setting to develop the identity and the recognizable style of the ‘Comme les loups’ bow ties. It was the original name of the current brand. The expression ‘Entre chien et loup’ (literally translated ‘between dog and wolf’) refers to a specific time of the day, just before night falls, when the light is so dim that you can hardly distinguish a dog from a wolf. It resembles the limit between something familiar and comfortable versus the unknown and the dangerous. Eventually, the original name evolved towards the current label as we know it nowadays, but the setting, style and atmosphere are still present through all of the collections.
When in doubt, put a bow on it.
The brand is known for its exclusive and handcrafted materials and its strong identity. Poetic, elegant and always with a playful twist. Each bow tie is made with unique fabrics, selected with the utmost care, ranging from suede to shearling. Each bow tie receives a name, characterizing its unique personality. To Isabel, a bow tie is the perfect cherry on the cake. A simple outfit will change completely by adding the right accent. And that’s what a bow tie does. It adds attitude, and it reinforces personality of the ones wearing it. She also likes the idea of men paying (more) attention to how to dress and giving them a way to add instant ‘punch’ to their outfit. For any occasion and for all types of men.
There isn’t such a thing as “a girlfriend pants”
If I ask Isabel if she ever thought about creating a women’s collection, the answer is yes. Although she is aware that some women would wear manly bow ties, the other way around is more difficult. “I think that men would rarely wear unisex products. Women have a lot of possibilities when it comes to prettying themselves up. There are less options for men. That’s why we decided to make a clear distinction between men and women and to focus on men accessories in the beginning.” This will change now. Although ‘Comme les loups’ was a ‘men only’ thing, they also launched a women collection. The model and selected fabrics make the distinction between bow ties for men and women.
Find (create) a job you really like.
At first, Isabel wanted to study fashion, but her parent’s concern, her interest in science, math and drawings eventually resulted in a Master degree in Architecture. Isabel strongly believes that creativity is in everyone. And that creativity has many faces. 1 Event and the appreciation of her friends were enough to trigger her love for beautiful fabrics and to re-discover that other side of her creative personality. She refined her sewing skills and decided to build a business around bow ties. All she needed was a push from Sam, her partner in crime. In 2014, Isabel put her job as an architect aside and she decided to put all of her time and effort in ‘Comme les loups’.
We’re all stories in the end. Make it a good one.
The golden formula of ‘Comme les loups’? Maybe it’s just “in” her. Isabel is a dreamer that uses a practical, down to earth approach, she follows her intuition but she sometimes needs a push, she talks determinately but asks for reflection. The label’s current success is the result of organic growth, taking risks when needed and a lot of gut feeling. Recognition and appreciation are also very motivating. Isabel couldn’t continue what she’s doing without appreciation.
Knowing that people appreciate my work and products, is what keeps me going. And it’s my responsibility to make it work.
3 more hours a day
When I ask Isabel what she would do if she could have 3 extra hours to fill the day, creativity’ pops-up again. “I think many people find it difficult to really know what they want. They easily slip into the ‘I have to’ regime and therefore forget about their creative side. Or they try to translate it into a hobby instead of integrating it more actively into daily life.” And then all of the sudden, she says: “I know what I would do if I would have 3 more hours a day : I would start drawing again. I loved drawing when I was younger. Or riding my bike in the city searching for new places to be discovered”.
Like wolves do, ‘Comme les loups’ stands its ground in a men’s world. Normally when wolves appear, it is time to trust our gut feeling to help us find a new path so that we can take our lives into our own hands. When ‘Comme les loups’ appears in your wardrobe, it means that you have found your ideal accessory in a way you want it to be. Stylish. Expressive. Elegant. And with a twist.