What makes the perfect dress? The kind that makes you feel like Keira Knightley in that 1930s emerald number in Atonement, or like a baseball bat-wielding Beyoncé wearing yellow Roberto Cavalli in the video for Lemonade. The kind of dress that you slip on and feel like you 2.0. Well, mother and daughter duo Bernadette Antwerp are pretty close to answering that question.
Founded by Bernadette and her daughter Charlotte, the brand has only been established for a year, but with stockists including Net-A-Porter, Moda Operandi, Browns and, as of this week, Selfridges, there’s no denying that fashion’s most discerning women are already fans.
Although the women run their label out of Antwerp, Belgium’s coolest city, the decision to work together took place when they were living in different countries. "I lived in London for six months and we were speaking on the phone every day," Charlotte explains, "and we just had lots to say about fashion and the kind of clothes we wanted to wear." Although the brand is still young, it seems as though it’s been taking shape for years, thanks to Bernadette’s influence. "When my mum gets dressed, she has her own vision and has always taken a lot of risks. I got to see this when I was young and I noticed it was different to other women. She really pushed me to find my own voice and style."
"I remember when I was younger she wanted me to wear a lot of dresses but I never did, I was so stubborn! I had a really clear vision of what I wanted to wear and my mum would let me – even if it was really bad," says Charlotte. "She wanted to dress like her brother, with army bands and sports sneakers," Bernadette laughs. So how did they land on the romantic botanicals and hyper-feminine silhouettes the label is recognised for today? "Before we launched the brand, I didn’t wear prints, but I’ve always loved to draw, so for me the challenge was drawing prints I’d actually wear," Charlotte explains. "Although there are florals and bright colours, there’s always something that evokes a calmness and stillness within the pieces." Whether it’s a sleek silhouette or a pared-back print, there is something timeless about the collections the women produce.
Despite its signature aesthetic, the more recent collections prove that Bernadette Antwerp refuses to be pigeonholed. "We’ve done four collections in total, and it’s evolving and building with each one. We needed accessories for our campaign shoots, so we made silk headscarves, and we’ve moved onto outerwear, too," says Bernadette. Highlights from the latest drop include a burnt orange robe emblazoned with Japanese lily pads, and a shocking fuchsia knot-front dress that would serve any alternative bride well on her wedding day.
With celebrity fans including Sandra Bullock, plus the seal of approval from Insta influencers like Monikh and Lizzy Hadfield, who is the Bernadette woman? "I think people want feminine dressing after the streetwear resurgence, so any woman who wants to feel like that. She isn’t scared of colour, she’s glamorous and confident. I’d love to see Cate Blanchett or Emma Mackey in our pieces," Charlotte says. Finally, what words of wisdom do they have for women looking to work with their mothers? "I was raised by a single mum and we’ve always been very close. As women designing for women I think that’s really important." Bernadette agrees: "It’s important to be able to say anything to each other, but you have to learn to stop talking about work all the time when you’re together. Also, you have to have a sense of humour!"