Before moving to the Belgian capital of fashion, I’ve always been a girl from Ghent. I’ve known the city for a long time, I’ve seen stores come and go. But there was always this one store that could stop me in my steps to stare at their window at any time: Sevens. Sevens has offered designer bags and accessories for about 30 years now and recently opened up a footwear extension next-door. Time to tell you about this wonderful boutique and Karin Sevens, the founder and spirit behind Sevens. And learn about the evolution in the world of luxury leather goods over the years.
Patricia and I, with the same love for beautiful things, got the chance to shoot a few of their gorgeous bags and shoes. Start saving up for some great investments that’ll last a lifetime. And read all kinds of insider and expert info in the Q&A below.
Can you give us a quick history of Sevens in bullet points?
- April 1985: OPENING in 1985 starting with the following brands: Il Bisonte. Ferre, Krizia, Valentino, Trussardi & De Vecchi
- 1992: Prada was added to the collection
- 2001: Bottega Veneta and Gucci as newcomers
- 2008: extension and renovation of the store
- 2008: Chloé and Balenciaga, the first non Italian brands were added
- 2014: Opening of the footwear boutique
What made you decide to open up shop in Ghent about 30 years ago? Where did your love for luxury leather goods come from?
From my mother I inherited the love for beauty and quality in materials, fabrics and tastes. As a child, I was stunned by everything I saw at the couturier where my mom had her clothes made: the fabrics, the buttons, the pin cushions, the ‘toiles’, all the details… I just couldn’t get enough of it. She also chose her bags with the utmost detail and care. In the 50’s and 60’s you only had a few bags, for life. I remember a beautiful black croco bag and a taupe suède Gucci bag.
After studying Art History, my love for all things design grew even more. My mother passed away. And I decided with the help of my husband, Hugo, to start up a designer bag boutique in the spirit of her elegance. There wasn’t much to find on the Belgian market until then. Only things such as Delvaux, Vuitton, Chanel and Hermès.
I’ve always had a deep love for Italy and so it was my biggest source of inspiration for accessories at that moment. Gianfranco Ferré was the first to create an accessories and bags collection completely isolated from his couture line at that moment. I knew I had to introduce Italian leather goods into Ghent, my hometown. It’s always been my goal to bring refinement in quality and design into the life of my clients. In 1991 Muiccia Prada was the example of dazzling creativity and had to become a part of Sevens. In the years to come I added even more Italian names such as Gucci, Bottega Veneta and Fendi to our offering.
Chloé and Balenciaga, two French houses, bring a flair of nonchalance and a young accent to our store.
bag: Balenciaga Le Dix at Sevens // bracelet: Balenciaga at Sevens // blue pumps: Gianvito Rossi at Sevens // shirt: COS // pants: Isabel Marant pour H&M
bag: Chloé Dalston at Sevens // jacket: Essentiel
What is your all time favorite bag?
The Bowling bag from Prada from the year 2000 & the large Peekaboo bag from Fendi.
You have seen a lot of change in the industry over the years. Tell us about the evolution of the luxury fashion industry.
One of my friends, Pieter Coene, won the “Gouden Spoel” when graduating from the Fashion Academy of Antwerp. I remember one of his statements: he was afraid of the temporary, the volatility of the concept ‘fashion’. He refused to become part of the rat race of commercial fashion. His career has taken another turn these days.
I sometimes fear that fashion has become a snake that eats its own tale. Seasons follow each other faster and faster. The intrinsic value of a creation and the materials it’s made of are declining year after year. Such a shame, because a lot of craftsmanship and love go into them.
I hope that one day, the slow fashion movement will gain importance and the value of a design will be restored. I see a lot of clients who still appreciate timeless design and long-lasting commitment to the things they buy.
What has changed in the retail industry and on client level in Belgium over the years? How do you, as an expert, see this evolve in the future?
The rise of e-commerce has changed a lot in this business. I used to be able to surprise my clients with new styles, new materials. Now they already know the collections from the internet, instagram etc. They know exactly what they come looking for in store.
I’m convinced that, when it comes to investments as big as designer bags, you have to feel, smell and try it on for size. The olfactory of a bag can never be illustrated online as in real life. I love being able to give people the right advice based on my personal expertise and see them walking out of my store with the face of a child on Christmas morning: with the gift of a lifetime. Something the internet will never be able to replace.
What advice do you give women when they come looking for a new or first designer bag?
There’s no magical formula for selling someone a designer bag. It’s a very personal story and it takes years of expertise and insight into the style and psyche of women to get it right.
I look at the personal style and appearance of a woman. Based on that, their story and preferences I make a suggestion. I do the same for men who come looking for a bag to gift to their loved one. I ask them to describe her as good as possible.
I love it when people return with pleasure to the store because they remember my good and honest advice. There’s nothing more rewarding, than making the right choice together with my clients. I always try to send them out the door with a timeless bag that’ll last a lifetime and feels like it’s made for them.
bag: Fendi 3Jours at Sevens // jacket: Essentiel // top: Magdalena // pants: Mih
bag: Chloé Dalston at Sevens // jacket: Essentiel // skirt: vintage Gerard Darel // shoes : Zign at Zalando
bag: Chloé Drew at Sevens // shoes: Gianvito Rossi at Sevens
Why do people like Sevens? What has made them come over for about 30 years now you think? What is your magical ingredient?
I think it’s the personal bond you build with your clients. As I said before, this is very personal and requires some expertise. I hope people feel that I make it my goal to send them home with the perfect bag. I never try to force a sale on someone. I seek to handle my business in an honest and passionate way. People who like that approach will notice and come back time and time again.
What are the future bag trends according to you?
When it comes to materials, I don’t see a lot of big innovations. Whether it’s the lack of time or that brands don’t want to take to many risks these days, leather is the main focus all around. Young designers have a lot of great ideas, but on the other hand, lack the financial means. People also prefer to invest into a leather bag, it makes them feel like they get their money’s worth. No harm in that either, leather is still one of the most beautiful, strong and versatile materials to work with.
When it comes to styles: the more the merrier! We are seeing this micro trend of micro bags at the moment, but that won’t last for long in my opinion. Every brand has a wide variety in shapes and sizes and it seams like they will be keeping that up in the seasons to come. Of course certain styles will be more popular at certain moments, but in the end, they all stay equally interesting. I look at bags as a “lifetime” thing, those will be the ones you’ll find at Sevens.
You recently expanded your business into luxury footwear as well. Do you think shoes and bags should match? Do you base your selections on that thought? Or do you simply fall in love with individual bag and shoe designs?
It’s nice if bags and shoes match, but it’s not an issue if they don’t. When I select my items, I fall in love with every single piece I buy. I trust my gut feeling. And in the end, isn’t it easier to sell something you truly love, than something you picked for mere style reasons? It’s all about elegance and quality, those things will always combine like a charm.
Which bag would you recommend to young fashionable women like us? What should we invest into and why?
It’s very hard to state this for a group of women. As explained higher up in this interview, I base my advice on very personal parameters. I suggest you come and pay a visit to our store to find out what will be your personal, perfect bag. I’ll be glad to make time for you.
You can visit Sevens at Henegouwenstraat 38, 9000 Ghent.
They are open from Monday afternoon until Saturday night every day from 11 am (2 pm on Mondays) until 6pm.
And make sure to follow them on Instagram and Facebook!
Photos by Michiel Pelerents.