Interview by Dean Sanders @dean__Sanders

We delve into the world of Princess Delphine and her collaboration titled ‘Love Imperfection’ at Maasmechelen Village. Princess Delphine shares her perspective on the role of imperfections in art and fashion, as well as her message of embracing imperfections. Through her installations and artistic expressions, she aims to raise awareness about the challenges faced by young individuals, promote self-acceptance, and inspire confidence beyond appearances. Join us as we explore the inspiration behind her unique art installations, her collaboration with emerging designers, and the profound impact of her optimistic outlook on life.

How do you see the role of imperfections in art and fashion? What message do you hope to convey through this collaboration about embracing imperfections?

On my first visit I was immediately captivated by Maasmechelen Village. It wasn’t a typical gallery or museum setting where my art usually reaches a limited audience. 

For quite some time now I’ve been involved with an organization called Warme William which focuses on the mental well-being of young individuals from children to young adults up to the age of 23. Unfortunately there has been a growing number of tragic suicides among younger age groups. As artists, I believe we have the power to raise awareness and provide support in such situations. That’s why I mentioned being a loving perfectionist because I’ve noticed, even with my teenagers that it can sound repetitive. However the COVID situation has had a profound impact on young people, isolating them and tethering them to their phones. They have become excessively reliant on social media which constantly bombards them with images of seemingly perfect lives, knowing well that filters and selective sharing are at play. It’s disheartening that young people struggle to grasp the discrepancy between the online facade and reality, no matter how many times we try to assure them. 

Through my work in  Maasmechelen Village,  I aim to remind these young individuals of falsehoods and convey this message with a touch of humor. I wanted to encourage them to find confidence in aspects beyond appearance and accept themselves for who they are. Who has the authority to judge what is perfect or imperfect after all? That’s why I incorporated mirror installations and even transformed ‘Manneken Pis’ to resemble a quirky version of myself. By poking fun at myself I hope to convey to the younger generation the importance of not taking oneself too seriously. Through fashion and artistic expression we can convey these messages and encourage individuals to contemplate alternative perspectives, ultimately instilling them with newfound confidence and a different way of approaching life.

Can you share with us the inspiration behind the installations created for Maasmechelen Village, such as the transformation of the ‘Manneken Pis’ into ‘Delphineken Pis’ and the larger-than-life wishing tree?

For the wishing three we wanted to ask the audience questions. One of them asked what message you would want to convey to a loved one. It’s a deeply personal topic that sometimes leaves us too ashamed to express it aloud. That’s where the idea of writing it on a ribbon comes in. “Make a wish” is an invitation, encouraging individuals to share their heartfelt sentiments. 

Another question focused on fostering connections and togetherness. This interactive artwork invites people to gather on cushions and gather around the hearts. Creating a space for communal gatherings is immensely vital for us humans. Once you settle down and immerse yourself in the surroundings, it becomes difficult to get up again. The beauty of it all captivates you—the ribbons gracefully floating above, inviting a sense of meditation. It’s a soothing ambiance allowing a rare opportunity to pause and simply be present. Finding stillness has become increasingly challenging for us, but here you can stand still take a seat and relish the moment. I witnessed people embracing the atmosphere, unwinding, and finding solace. It provides an opportunity for reflection and an avenue to discuss the underlying theme. 

The hearts, contrary to my usual focus on text as a visual artist became the symbol of choice for this project. I understood that children would be present, some of whom may not yet have learned to read. The simplicity of the hearts resonated with everyone. It facilitated interactions with very young children who couldn’t read but were wearing heart-shaped symbols on their shirts. I would point to their hearts or the hearts scattered on the floor, initiating a unique form of communication with those who have yet to grasp the written word.

Princess Delphine at ‘Delphineken Pis’

Next to the art installations, there is also the ‘The Creative Spot’, an initiative by The Bicester Collection. You have chosen 10 up-and-coming Belgian creatives to participate in this pop-up boutique. What was the selection process like for choosing the local emerging designers featured in The Creative Spot?

I already knew some of them from previous interactions. For instance, Cilem Tunc who designed my dress for Dancing with the Stars. When you’re dressing for a performance it’s a whole different ballgame. The clothes need to allow you to dance. Also her styling approach fascinated me, and that’s when I started exploring further. I also wore her dress for Belgium’s National Day while attending with my family. It was my first time wearing her creation and it was fantastic. These encounters happened gradually as I moved through life meeting people along the way. It’s a matter of luck because ‘believe me’ I would have loved to discover even more talents out there. There’s undoubtedly an abundance waiting to be found. 

Another person who played a significant role was ‘Jody Van Geert’ a professional stylist. He has dressed me for various occasions and teamed up with me to introduce me to new talents from Belgium. Having spent most of my life in England, I needed to expand my connections and learn about more local talents. That’s basically how it all came together.

In the creative space, where diverse designs, cultures, and prints come together, how did you collaborate with the designers featured in The Creative Spot? Did they have complete artistic freedom, or did you work together as a collective, exchanging ideas and incorporating different perspectives into the final designs?

We thought it would be best for the theme to revolve around love. Beyond that I simply let them be, allowing them the freedom to express themselves and do what they felt was right. That’s my preferred approach when working on projects. I trusted in their abilities and believed they would create something truly beautiful. And you know what? I am genuinely delighted with the outcome. They did an incredible job, and it brings me great joy.

‘The Creative Spot’

How would you describe your relationship with clothes and fashion design? 

When I enrolled in art school at the age of 18, I attended the ‘Chelsea School of Art and Design’. In the first year, we were required to explore various disciplines within the arts. We spent three weeks on photography, architecture, painting, and even fashion. The purpose was to ensure that young students were pursuing the right path for themselves. Sometimes you might think you excel in one area, like photography, but discover your true calling lies in architecture, for instance.

I was certain that fashion was my passion. So, when it was time for my three weeks in the fashion department, I was excited. However they assigned me the task of designing a bra and underwear. I must admit, I felt a bit let down. I thought, “Is this all? Just designing undergarments?” It seemed trivial to me at the time. But looking back, it was a clever way of teaching us that clothing is much more than just aesthetics. It’s about understanding and working with the human body. Around that time, I was particularly inspired by Madonna. Drawing inspiration from that I crafted a bra and underwear out of a soft iron-like material. However, they were incredibly uncomfortable to wear and far from aesthetically pleasing. It was clear that fashion was not my forte, as my professor kindly pointed out suggesting that I stick to painting instead. And that was the end of my fashion endeavor. 

It made me realize that I craved more freedom in expressing myself without the constraints of clothing and the body. I have always had a profound appreciation for clothing and the ability to express oneself through it. That’s why I’m happy that my recent paintings have transformed into wearable art. It’s amazing to be able to wear my artwork. The difference now is that I collaborate with a team who brings my designs to life making them wearable. So, while I may not be the one physically constructing the garments I am still deeply involved in the design process.

Throughout your 35 years of experience in the art world, what insights and personal experiences have influenced the design and concept behind the installations for ‘Love Imperfections’?

I believe it’s an observation of the current situation among young people. With two children of my own, one aged 15 and the other 19, their friends are a significant part of my life. This allows me to closely observe their experiences and reflect upon my own teenage years. COVID-19 has played a significant role in raising my awareness of the mental health challenges faced by these young individuals. This newfound awareness has greatly influenced my art. I have been exploring the theme of love for about two years now and it continues to resonate with me. It has become a healing process for personal experiences. By repeatedly writing the word “love” on canvases, embellishing the O’s with various colors and creating beauty, I find happiness and a renewed sense of perspective in navigating this complex world. Life’s ups and downs, along with its difficulties inspire and shape my artistic endeavors. It’s a way for me to cope, find solace, and face the world with a more positive mindset even in moments of uncertainty or fear. My art is deeply influenced by ongoing events and experiences in life.

One aspect that truly stands out about you as both a person, a princess, and an artist is your positive outlook on life. This optimism is vividly reflected in your artworks. With that in mind, what message do you hope viewers will take away from experiencing your art? And how do you aspire to inspire and uplift others through your artistic creations?

I’ve already received feedback from people who approached me during the event and expressed their gratitude for the message I conveyed. Some shared personal stories of their children’s struggles with anorexia, emphasizing the genuine impact and relevance of my art. It’s a reminder that this issue resonates with real people and I genuinely hope it helps individuals feel connected and understood, knowing they are not alone in their experiences. 

The symbolism of the heart and the message of love serve as a reminder that love exists and should be cherished. I believe this message has a positive effect. When attending an exhibition recently I noticed a heavy focus on guns and war. While acknowledging the existence of such problems in the world is important, I feel that constantly being bombarded with reminders of negativity can be overwhelming. For me creating art is therapeutic. It’s a way to acknowledge the reality of the world while also emphasizing the need to hold onto positivity and love. Life can present immense challenges and traumatic experiences, but maintaining a positive attitude and perspective can help navigate through those dark moments. It’s about finding a balance and focusing on the good amidst the difficulties, allowing us to persevere and grow.

In a world that often emphasizes perfection, how do you personally approach and navigate this topic? Have there been any specific imperfections, either in the world or in your own life, that you have learned to embrace and love? 

There are certainly imperfections in my life. I have encountered quite a few. However, the way I choose to approach them is by gaining more confidence in myself and achieving certain goals that make me proud. This process allows me to embrace my imperfections and view them with a softer perspective. They become easier to live with and I find myself being less angered by them. When you feel proud of yourself and detached from these imperfections, they hold less power over you.

Opening event ‘Love Imperfection’