Sarah Deruwe started her label in 2013. Creating a leather belt was the beginning of her own story. Nowadays, label DERUWE includes more than just belts. Her current trademarks are (stunning!) bags and accessories. Sarah invited me to her atelier in Antwerp, Belgium. When she opens the door, her lovely smile is immediately present and will accompany us during the rest of our conversation. It’s an invitation to learn more about who she is, her work and thoughts.
Sarah’s grandfather was an opera singer, her dad makes wooden children’s toys, her sister is good in painting and Sarah makes leather bags. Yes, creativity arises in various guises. By inviting me to ‘‘t Pand’, a co-creating space, she literally gives me an insight into a part of her creative world. Surrounded by many other creative people and initiatives, Sarah loves being here in this open space studio. Working among others – together but alone – appears to be a conscious choice. Besides the practical aspect, she also needs this distinction between work and private space. “There is more in life than work and I want to enjoy all these other things as well. This space enables me to close the door and focus on these other things more easily.”
Walk alone and you’ll find yourself in places no one has ever been
Sarah isn’t a planner. 5 years ago Sarah couldn’t have imagined that her current profession would grow out of leather. After graduating in 2007, for the first time , she decided to backpack and travel to South-America for 7 months. Back then, Sarah had more questions than answers and she didn’t know what she wanted to do in life. The trip wasn’t THE answer to all of her questions, but it gave her a lot in return in many ways. She phrases and rephrases her sentences. It’s about never feeling lonely and meeting the right people at the right time. It’s about trusting yourself and following your gut feeling. And then silence. She laughs. She explains that she can’t find the right words to tell me what it meant to her. “There is one moment where I was sitting in a truck, alone, and the only thing I was thinking was ‘I am so, so happy!!!’.”
When I was younger, I always needed to have people around me, and now it’s not an issue anymore. On the contrary, now, I sometimes long to be alone.”
Simplicity is not an end in art. We usually arrive to simplicity as we approach the true sense of things. (Constantin Brancusi)
DERUWE stands for true craftsmanship. Sarah does everything by hand on her 4 square meter working space. She draws, cuts and sews the leather with a lot of patience and endurance until she is happy with the result. She will always use high quality material that stands out because of its sustainability.
Her designs are pure, simple and timeless. All characterized by subtle details. ‘Yes’, she says, ‘working like this takes time and it also affects the price of course. I am aware of that. But I’d rather do it this way than going along with the mass production society. The products I design become even more beautiful when using them. The leather gets more supple and is meant to be used over a long period of time. So, in the end, it’s is all worth the investment.”
Go the extra mile. It’s never crowded.
Sarah clearly prefers to grow her brand slowly and to follow her own pace by not giving in to the high (production) pressure from outside. At this stage in her life as a designer, she wants to be and stay in full control of the creation and production process. That is also the reason why Sarah still designs and creates everything by hand. “I work as I live. I don’t follow the crowd. I try to find my own way and stick to that. From a financial point of view, it’s not that interesting I suppose, but the freedom of doing what I want and the way I want …’. She doesn’t complete the sentence, but, there is that smile again. And nonverbal actions can speak louder than words, right?
Hungry for authenticity
Via DERUWE, Sarah hopes to pass on her love and fascination for true craftsmanship. The pureness and honesty she tries to put into her work is also something that she values in her contacts with people. “Sometimes you feel that you connect and words become needless”. The same goes for the things she surrounds herself with. The making of something intrigues her.
“Smile and you will speak” certainly applies to Sarah. She smiles when she thinks, when she struggles and when she apologizes. “There is a lot in me”, she explains, “but it’s hard to find the right words to express what it is”. Later in the evening I receive a mail from Sarah to say ‘thank you’. She also added the following: “My travels learned me to trust my intuition, to overcome my fear and to keep going when the going gets tough. Every day is an opportunity to learn, to open myself to new things and situations and making the best out of it. But most important is staying true to myself. And that’s something I want to translate into my work.” Sarah Deruwe. She knows more than she says, thinks more than she speaks and notices more than you realize.