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20 Feb 2017

Élise and Manon, two designers who are reinventing the fluorescent vest

It is no longer rare for the Brussels cycling trails to bustle with traffic, enabling us, among other things, to observe a full range of bike accessories. This is how we discovered a somewhat surprising piece of equipment: in a pretty colour with original designs and elegantly cut. Nothing less than a fluorescent vest! We met its designers, who, what is more, are Belgian.

Although Élise and Manon live in Liege, they are not unknown in the capital where they studied and lived for years. Élise, 31, is a film editor and script supervisor. Manon, 30, is an industrial designer who works at Créahm (art workshops for the mentally disabled).

Friends since their childhood and with a passion for creation and design, they shared the dream of launching a project together. As they are regular cyclists the fluo vest immediately came to mind. And they were soon busy with scissors and sewing machine, making a prototype.

The design they have imagined is pure genius. Its starts with a rectangle of cloth from which they cut out two sections to form an ‘H’. The rest is a question of assembly and knots. Another advantage is that the vest can be rolled up and secured with a ribbon to fit in a purse.

The two designers considered it a question of honour to have their product assembled in Belgium. After visiting many production sites they found what they wanted in Oudenaarde, in a sheltered workshop.

‘This type of workshop is a good solution to produce small quantities in Belgium. Plus that, they were super motivated by the idea of working with us,’ Élise explains. The cutting, sewing and silk-screening with reflexive ink are all done by the disabled.

In their small firm, called ‘Owlcraft’, Élise and Manon do a lot of the work themselves: design, searching for suppliers and produces, visiting sales points. This gives them the chance to work together and to meet others: ‘it’s the social side that we adore,’ they affirm together.

Combining style with safety is not that self-evident, but the designers managed to do so with a good dose of creativity and motivation. The next step for Owlcraft? ‘We want to make reflecting backpack covers with the pieces cut from the vests. That way nothing gets thrown away,’ they explain.

The price (€ 55) is obviously not comparable with that of a simple fluorescent chasuble. But Owlcraft products reflect the philosophy of a unique project (Belgian designers, small local production, sheltered workshop, reducing wastes) and the object is more akin to a stylish piece of clothing than a simple fluo vest. Want to try one on? The vests are sold in various stores in Brussels, such as Bel’arte, Belgikïe, Ahooga and Au guidon vert or else on the Owlcraft website.