Edouard Vermeulen, otherwise known as Mr Natan was fascinated by design from an early age. After graduating as an interior designer from Sint-Lukas in Brussels, he presented his first designs in the early 1980s, on the premises of Belgian couturier Paul Natan. It was here that Vermeulen cultivated his growing passion for fashion. Building on the establishment’s artisanal heritage, he in turn began creating couture pieces and took over the house under the name NATAN.
If you don’t think you know NATAN you are probably mistaken. If you’ve admired the elegance and beauty of different outfits worn by Belgian royalty or Queen Màxima of the Netherlands, you may well have been admiring the vision and work of Edouard Vermeulen.
His collaborations with the Belgian royal family precede the current incumbent, but there seems to be a particularly close rapport with Queen Mathilde. In an interview with Nieuwsblad Vermeulen estimates that over the course of her 24 years as a member of the royal family as princess then queen there have been nearly 500 outfits: “We have been working together since 1999. That is 24 years.”
Vermeulen says that the Queen comes to view the new collection at the start of each season. The choice of outfit is aligned to the type of activities planned in the months ahead, ranging from working visits to a hospital to a state visit abroad. He is particularly busy in the approach to Belgium’s national day on 21 July.
“Natan is the last house to create its collections in its own workshops”
Natan is the last house to create its collections in its own workshops, in Belgium. Atelier II, located on Place Brugmann, is dear to Edouard Vermeulen because of its “Parisian” character. It is a place completely dedicated to craftsmanship and unique couture creations. This cultivates a couture tradition in a “living room atmosphere”, allowing the clientele to discover the know-how, admire the precision and connect the collections with their design.
Natan’s signature style has continued to evolve. However, ’Mr. Natan‘ does not consider himself a typical creator or designer. Natan is not about fleeting fashion, but timeless elegance. It is a world of lush fabrics, shimmering satins, feathers and bold design choices. At the same time there is nothing staid or dull about the fashion house, it is constantly innovating.
”Vermeulen is also a passionate supporter of up and coming talent”
Edouard Vermeulen is also a passionate supporter of up and coming talent. In 2017, he launched the “NATAN Collective”, which supports emerging and artisanal Belgian brands. He has made the first floor of his boutique on rue de Namur available, offering visibility to the next generation. Three Belgian editions have already made it possible to discover initiatives that subsequently came to fruition. Vermeulen is sponsor of the Brussels College of Art and Design (CAD) fashion section. CAD brings a real and hands-on approach to developing the talent of the future. CAD has a unique ethic, which brings teachers with real world experience from the top of their field in contact in a system that is more like an apprenticeship than a standard educational approach.
Natan creates beautiful garments without compromising on integrity. Originality and ethics are equally part of their DNA. “We are continuously working to make our company sustainable. In 2020 we introduced a new organic, plant-based and environmentally friendly leather made from cactus in our couture collection. We have made it our responsibility to contribute to reversing fast-fashion and evolving into a fully sustainable brand.”
“Originality and ethics are equally part of their DNA”
The outlook on sustainability includes caring deeply about the lives of the people involved in the production of their collections. “We apply our small-scale and intimate philosophy at all levels of the company and beyond. We regard the Belgian Natan workshops as the heart of our company and we invest daily in maintaining in-house knowledge.”
As part of its fortieth anniversary celebrations there is an exceptional exhibition of 30 unique dresses on the ground and first floors of the Espace Vanderborght. The exhibition is organized in collaboration with the Fashion Museum of the City of Brussels and can be seen until 5 January, it even includes the very first dress he designed in 1983 for his mother, for the marriage of his brother.