Iconic Modernization

by Brenna Dixon

Belstaff Creative Director Delphine Ninous dishes on the first Canadian store and evolving a heritage brand.

 Delphine Ninous

Delphine Ninous

Belstaff was founded in 1924 in Longton, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England. The innovative brand was the first company to fabricate waxed cotton for waterproof motorcycle jackets. Now fast-forward nearly a hundred years later to the opening of the first Belstaff Canadian store in Yorkville Village, Toronto. The refined boutique sits in a modernized space with elements imported from Europe that ensure the brand DNA remains prominent and honours the Belstaff aesthetic. This is an exciting expansion for the brand that continues to be a pioneer in the fashion industry.

In order to stay relevant in a constantly changing marketplace, the evolution of creative vision is paramount. The vision is the responsibility of the creative director, who channels the brand aesthetic and is essentially accountable for making something so archival, modern again.

Delphine Ninous joined Belstaff in 2014 to oversee the women’s collection. Today, as Creative Director, she is the guiding light for one of the world’s oldest fashion brands. Speaking about her past and aspirations from a young age, Ninous recalls how she has always dreamed of working in fashion. She states, “I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer and I never changed my mind.” Without wasting any time, she completed her studies and catapulted herself immediately into the working world at the young age of 21 for Christian Lacroix. Transitioning from school into the workforce was “a completely different reality,” she divulges, as she faced the challenges of trying to adapt to the working world.

As her childhood dream played out, she moved on to work for Isabel Marant, Comptoir des Contonniers, and Diane von Furstenberg. Today, at Belstaff, she recalls what initially attracted her to the brand. “There aren’t that many brands today that are nearly a hundred years old, and that’s quite beautiful,” she states. The most captivating part, however, was the fact that “there wasn’t just fashion history. There was so much more to the brand, which was so interesting to explore.”

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“It is a long road with a lot of work. You must strive for perfection.”

 

- Delphine Ninous

Moving from the womenswear division to overlooking both the men and women’s categories, her vision was to “evolve the heritage and make it relevant to today. I wanted an urban and modern customer.” Moving the brand into a more modernized space is something that Delphine has successfully accomplished without sacrificing the DNA and legacy of Belstaff. The regeneration of products over time is quite a challenge, especially when rounding the hundred-year mark.

One of the brand’s most iconic pieces is the “Trialmaster” four-pocket jacket, which was originally designed around 1948 to endure UK weather. She explains that it is an “everyday job to re-evaluate the proportions and fabrications of this particular piece.” This archetypal jacket for Belstaff was re-launching only hours after the conclusion of our interview. Today, in 2018, the Trialmaster re-debuts in a high-performance fabric - a three-layer stretch nylon that is waterproof and moist-wicking. “Belstaff was innovative in the ‘20s when the brand started, and continues to do so to adapt to a modern way of life,” which concludes that this particular jacket truly represents transformation to Ninous.

In a hyper-globalized and chaotic world, brands are forced to constantly adapt and change for a plethora of reasons. At such a time-honoured company, “having a history is an even more relevant gauge of value and is reassuring for a customer,” she states. Without a doubt, today’s consumer can rely on a company that has stood the test of time for nearly a century. Donned by celebrities from Steve McQueen to David Beckham, the modern touch of Ninous has given the brand the ability to reposition itself and be applicable to a new generation.

With a plethora of accomplishments to date, Delphine considers becoming the creative director of Belstaff “the biggest challenge and most exciting moment” of her career thus far. As life often has it, she also became a mother during this pivotal moment in her career. “It was quite challenging,” she says through delighted and light-hearted laughter.  Between motherhood and her career, Ninous finds time to tap into inspiration with the help of a dense archive at Belstaff beginning in the 1920s.

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“I knew I wanted to be a fashion designer and I never changed my mind.”

 

- Delphine Ninous

When she isn’t travelling back in time, she nurtures herself with art, travel, music, and draws inspiration from icons such as Bob Dylan and Keith Richards. In terms of her fashion industry icons, “I admire Raf Simons. He comes from a pure design point of view and his work is so artistic and graphic.”  She respects that Simons’ “consideration for garments transcends trends, resulting in such intelligent creations.” Creative individuals are also known for their pronounced personal style, and she describes her own style as “definitely [a] mix between masculine and feminine, a play with contrast.”

As the iconic heritage brand was gearing up to re-launch one of its original brand garments, Ninous takes a moment to look back on her success and offers advice for aspiring designers. “It is a long road with a lot of work. You must strive for perfection,” she encourages.

While the road to success is never easy, she softly reaffirms that her life motto is that you must “believe in your instinct.”

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