Tailor Pierre Degand opened his first shop in the Belgian seaside town of Knokke in 1974 with the financial support of his mother who went to the coast every weekend to help him out. About a decade later, an opportunity arose to set up in Brussels where he set his heart on an imposing townhouse that came up for sale in the Avenue Louise. Located at the other end of the avenue from the commercial centres of Place Louise and Place Stephanie and their boutiques, there would be no passing trade and Degand suspected there would be initial resistance to its grandeur. But he took the plunge, believing it the perfect setting for his handcrafted products. The gamble paid off, and time has proved him right. Maison Degand, granted a royal warrant in 2007, is now spread over three adjacent buildings and has become a popular destination for customers in search of quality and service in elegant surroundings.
Head to Toe
Degand, 58, differed from most of his contemporaries in what he wanted to offer his clientele, rejecting the idea of branding or marketing. Instead, his philosophy, which holds true today, was “to provide the best possible products at the best possible price”. Degand Tailleur was established in 1983, Degand Sport for more casual attire welcomed its first clients in 1996 and Degand Business, the more contemporary and accessible option for suits, in 2003. Sport and Business are managed by Pierre Degand’s wife Michèle and were merged into one in 2010 when a separate space for shoes also saw the light of day. Three separate departments feature bespoke, semi-bespoke and ready-to-wear, a combination capable of dressing a man from head to toe for any occasion, be it day or night, indoors or out. And there’s more: perfume, accessories and jewellery, the common denominator being quality.
Degand works mainly with Italian manufacturers and workshops and some British suppliers, the idea being to find the best fabrics and materials and have them handcrafted or machine finished depending on the end product in mind. He also stocks brand names, but only those that meet his own taste and quality-price ratio. One of the advantages of the way Degand works is the variety of options he makes available to clients. For instance, a brand may choose to make a particular pullover in a limited range of seasonal colors, whereas Degand can have it made according to his or his clientele’s preference.
Mix and Match
Timeless rather than classic is how Degand defines the house style, but customers are able to mix and match and personalize their own look, an example being the client who opts for bespoke shirts but wears off-the-peg suits to achieve a tighter fit and more modern look. Degand points out that the choice of a resolutely modern shoe will pep up a more traditional silhouette in clothes, the devil being in the detail. And he definitely has an eye for detail as well as a good memory – he’s the sort of man who will remember the coat a customer was wearing when he last saw them three months ago, an invaluable asset when helping clients develop style and wardrobe.
To complete the Masion Degand experience, Degand says he allowed his 18-year-old daughter Emily – passionate about food and brimming with ideas – talk him into having a tearoom on the premises that will open some time next year. A bold move considering the present economic climate but definitely one that will delight his loyal customers. And it will be something to look forward to as well as being the perfect venue to celebrate a happy birthday.