Belgian baroness Lady Ullens' travel-friendly fashion
Lady Ullens started her business for the same reason many others start theirs: she wasn’t satisfied with what was on the market and felt others shared her sentiments.
As well as being a frequent traveller, the Belgian baroness heads an impressive list of global initiatives, from the Ullens Centre for Contemporary Art (UCCA) in Beijing – which she founded with her husband – to the Maison Ullens brand in Paris, and many more; her work is demanding and globally dispersed.
“I had nothing appropriate and elegant to wear while travelling. That is why I created my own brand, Maison Ullens,” Lady Ullens says. With this frustration in mind, she dreamt of a label which would forge a balance between travel wear, sportswear and city wear. Made in Italy with the help of the best artisans, the mission for the label was set clear from the start: to create comfortable, elegant clothes of quality and versatility.
Although the goal is not original, satisfying the demands of a figure with such exacting standards is no easy task. “I used to be a loyal patron of all the different luxury brands like Dior and Chanel,” she says. “But now that I’ve established the Maison Ullens brand, I only wear my own clothes.” Laughing, she adds: “I don’t buy from them any more, so they cry!”
Hallmarks of the collection include its low-profile design, reversible pieces, and sumptuous fabrics including dipped lambskin, leather, treated sheepskin, and cashmere. Maison Ullens has no interest in trends; rather, its clothes possess a relaxed, elegant quality that is both ageless and seasonless. This approach is reminiscent of venerable French brand Hermès, which also distances itself from the whims and follies of the schizophrenic fashion industry.
Yet running a fashion brand in today’s saturated market is no easy task. The luxury industry is littered with either the failed adventures of luxury conglomerates such as the Kering Group and Richemont. But for Lady Ullens, these realities are part and parcel of achieving her goals.
The brand has grown considerably since its launch. Maison Ullens now has stores in Paris, London and Aspen, Colorado, and is looking to open a stand-alone store in Hong Kong, where The Swank stocks Maison Ullens.
“My father pushed me to realise my dream,” the baroness recalls. “He was in the military, so that is where he developed self-discipline. I was in boarding school for 12 years. It was a good school, very strong and very strict like the military.”