Interview: Bart de Backer of HUGO

Cheerful, flora-inspired themes typical of spring make way for the smoky, sweaty clubs of Berlin for HUGO Spring/Summer 2019. The collection’s oversized jackets, clashing prints and lightweight outdoor fabric channel the misfits of Berghain.


We pick the brain of Bart de Backer, Senior Head of Creative Management and Concept Design, to find out how a thriving underground club scene translates to wearables among other things.


The collection was derived from Berlin underground music. What about it inspired you?
Within Germany, there were many small underground parties happening in Berlin and Frankfurt. I was inspired by the graphics on club flyers and posters as well as the whole techno scene in general. We looked into our archives when HUGO first added a menswear line and found lots of oversized trousers. I didn’t know we did that 25 years ago but it’s really relevant to the 90s resurgence. We showed the collection in Berlin at Motorwerk, an empty factory where they once held illegal techno parties.

Did you used to frequent such parties?
Yeah, not in Berlin but Belgium where I grew up. There’s a huge club scene there too. Go watch The Sound of Belgium, a documentary about the underground parties. I’d love to experience that. Maybe when I was younger…Well, you can do that more in the afternoon than the middle of the night.

How long do they party for?
I was a softie comparing to other club kids. I went out from 1am and took the first train home at 6am. There were people who started on Friday evening to Monday. There are clubs that close between 6am to 8am in the morning and then there are clubs that open at 9am.

What is your creative process like?
Every season is a bit different. Most of the time I start with an idea, draw up some sketches then engage with my team to create. I have several designers from different generations who work with me. I like that they all have a different way of looking at things. The 90s, for example, was when I was a student but there’re people in my team who were born in the 90s so they never lived through it. What they know of the 90s is only their interpretation of it. This is what I find very interesting — how they look at things. I also have a nephew who’s 19-years-old and started wearing stuff from his dad. He’s from the Instagram generation but he tries to replicate outfits from that time.

Fashion is ever-changing and sometimes you get copycats. How do you adapt to what’s
happening in the world?
That’s not an easy question to answer. Fashion is becoming a big business at the moment. Business ideas are dominating more and more in the industry.

When looking for inspiration, do you follow trends or are you insistent with your ideas?
I would try to do the latter but I work for a very big corporation so I cannot ignore what is happening around. However, I don’t see it as a limitation, I see it as a challenge.
Under the HUGO family there are a lot of products but our idea of fashion is getting less season-driven. What I find interesting about the whole ‘drop’ or ‘capsule’ way of launching a collection is that for designers, it’s easier because you only have one topic, say graphics, to create a story from. Most of the time it’s not too season dependent. I find that more
interesting than only making a Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter collection. The only disadvantage is that we have to juggle two systems: the seasonal and drop releases. It would be great to go with only the drop logic because it’s more interesting.

Where do you get most of your fashion inspiration from?
It could be everything. I use social media more for hints for up-and-coming trends. I like to do my research more traditionally by going to bookshops and libraries. On the internet everything is available but only very superficially. It’s also because I belong to the older generation. When you go to a library, you start with an idea and discover many things. The funny thing is my younger team members like that too. They like to source for information offline because for them it’s more tactile.

Is your team European?
No, we have people from Brazil and Argentina as well.


Who are your favourite designers?
Ann Demeulemeester. I had the chance to intern with her when I was studying between 1996-2000 and learnt a lot. I was doing fashion week shows and was involved in opening her first flagship store. I had a chance to work with her and her husband. She’s very particular about details but she brings a nonchalance to her garments. When you wear her clothes, it looks as though you’ve had them for several years. Another designer I find very interesting is Rei Kawakubo. She’s amazing. The way she approaches fashion…

Did you know about Rei Kuwakubo when you were still in school?
Back then, I’d go to Paris and go to every Comme des Garçons store to check out all the pieces because they all had such a strong look. She really pushes the boundaries especially with the latest collection.

Thank you for your insight Bart!


Interview by Chooee & Yawen

Photos by Chooee