"I always have my best friend with me for the important moments": The mother-daughter duo behind cool-girl Belgian brand Bernadette

Imagine starting a fashion brand with your mum.

For many of us, that prospect is as implausible as it is incomprehensible. As undesirable as it is unattractive.

But for Antwerp-based, mother-daughter duo Charlotte and Bernadette De Geyter, this was far from the case.

The two formed cult brand Bernadette (in honour of Charlotte’s mum) just two years ago and already has managed to earn its stripes with the fashion crowd, owing to its variegated use of colour and streamlined silhouettes.

“It feels like it was meant to be that we would be designing together eventually,” 26-year-old Charlotte remarks, referencing their shared love of vibrant fashion.

Charlotte and Bernadette (Eva Donckers)

And it was precisely this shared admiration for clothes which instigated the genesis of Bernadette.

In the eighties, Bernadette (who Charlotte lauds as having “amazing taste in fashion and interiors”) enjoyed a period working in buying for Ralph Lauren, before focusing on growing and developing Antwerp-based boutiques.

Fast forward several years and Charlotte graduated with a masters in fashion from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, before going on to work for bucolic London-based designer, Simone Rocha.

It was Charlotte’s stint in the Capital which sparked a flame of inspiration in her.

“What I learned and saw at Simone’s that really attracted me was that she would work so closely with her parent (her dad is the fashion designer, John Rocha,)” Charlotte muses. “It was beautiful to see how they were all so close and really lived and breathed the DNA of the brand.”

Charlotte and Bernadette (Eva Donckers)

The focus on family at Rocha made Charlotte yearn to emulate the same environment for her own brand. “I knew that this was what I wanted as well for my own company one day,” she says.

And, in 2018, there was a meeting of a mother and her daughter’s minds, and Bernadette was born.

Bernadette’s designs comprise chaotic colourways in a series of throw-on-and-go styles. The kind of dresses that last you a lifetime and have enough personality to withstand superfluous fads and trends.

The brand, which has amassed a 13,000-strong Instagram following, is proud to be the antithesis of the aforementioned trends which have emerged in recent years, including neutral-toned colour palettes and body-conscious pieces.

“We’re inspired by women that don’t follow trends and who prefer to buy what moves them emotionally,” Bernadette explains, admonishing the trend-driven world which her brand exists in. These are the exact trends which “push” the pair even more to create more of their fun and unapologetic designs.

The pair cite style mavens Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly and Elisabeth Taylor amongst their inspirations.

But given that the brand has cross-generational appeal thanks to its ageless designs, and the age-gap between its two founders, how do the women merge their two styles while still nurturing the allure of their clothes?

“We’re controversial in our colours – extremely feminine in our attitude – and always minimal in the styling,” Charlotte explains.

Bernadette is the Antwerp-based brand you need to know about (Eva Donckers)

54-year-old Bernadette’s focus, meanwhile, is on the designs having “lots of fun and being timeless and elegant.”

Attributes which arguably resonate across age groups. But with nearly two decades separating the pair, and with the inevitable close bond shared between mothers and daughters, there must come challenges from working so closely with a parent/child.

“We have to tell each other not to talk about work during our family dinners, it is really difficult sometimes, but we’re getting better at it!” jokes Bernadette.

Conversations at the dinner table may be a challenge, but ultimately, Charlotte summarises, “I always have my best friend with me for the important moments.”

In a fraught world which is currently trying to navigate the unchartered territory of a global pandemic, the pair aim to use their designs and brand to evoke happiness and inspire beauty.

“We want to create beauty and things that make you happy and we’re proud that we can stand out,” Charlotte states.

Bernadette’s new season is available to buy now on FarFetch.


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