Exploring a few of the Belgian jewelry designer’s favorite people, places, and things.
Photographed in Belgium by Joanna van Mulder
for DARA artisans
Hair & Make-up: June Sawyer at Aurelien Agency in Paris.
Model : Karina at IMM Brussels.
Assistant: Paul Van der Steen.
Retouching: Cécile Stevens at Pomme3D in Brussels.
Special thanks to Dune Productions for all their help
“Everything starts with my brother’s death,” says CATHs jewelry designer Catherine De Groote. She was 38, her brother a year younger, when he died in 2008. Beyond De Groote’s personal loss, his death would have profound professional implications: The siblings were also business partners, importing Patagonia activewear to Belgium. After his death, De Groote and her husband sold the business. “We said to ourselves, ‘This is an opportunity to do something I really like.’ Life is short; you should make the best of it. So I told my husband, ‘Let’s go to India.’” Six months after selling the business, De Groote and her husband arrived in Delhi: “I was astonished—here was this huge city, and the first thing I smelled when I left the plane was like a burning potato—an earthy smell, not a car or gas. It was very crowded, but I really liked it.”
Before the tumult surrounding her brother’s death, De Groote had been a hobbyist designer, making small pieces “when I went to a dinner or to give to a girlfriend or family,” she says. That trip to India, though, radically changed De Groote’s idea of what was possible. “I didn’t bring any samples—I wanted to let things go and come into my head. And they did.” She returned to Belgium with the handmade glass beads and hand-crafted horn and bone beads that are still represented in her collection, and a head full of inspiration. “Even poor women there had a real elegance, with flowers in their hair. I saw women in the fields, working, but still wearing their jewelry. I saw that their jewelry has to be very comfortable and light, so that they can work while wearing it, but that it also has to have volume because it makes you look important.”
Since that first trip to India, De Groote has returned there many times to work alongside her team of artisans; she’s now preoccupied by dreams of travel to snowier climes. We asked her for her chief inspirations, and discovered a mix of people, places, and art.
“The jewelry doesn’t inspire me that much, but the textiles and the houses, and the architecture, do.”
“There is a lot of creativity in our country. It’s all due to the weather–we have these low gray skies with beautiful light. This light gives you a vision that’s different from people who live outside; we live more inside.”
THE PAINTINGS OF ENGLISH LANDSCAPE ARTIST J. M. W. TURNER
“The skies of Turner are all different–they all look the same, but they’re all different.”
“It’s always very warm and cozy. It’s easier to make a winter collection than a summer collection—I use more white horn in the summer, more dark or burnt horn in the winter.”
THE FAR NORTH
“I’m getting interested in the very north–the wilderness, the lonely nature. I would like discover Alaska or Greenland.”