Maria Wittmann, pillar of Maison De Greef
Maria, an emblematic figure for Maison De Greef, was the grandmother of current CEOs Arnaud and Jacques Wittmann, and they agree that De Greef would not even exist nowadays if it hadn’t been for her. She had a hard life (she was deported during World War II), but it only strengthened her character and her iron will.
She and her husband Marcel lived over the shop in the rue au Beurre, their little kitchen was in the cellar and they were open seven days a week... until 10 p.m.! The business was led by three people who complemented each other perfectly: Marcel in the workshop, Maria as the saleslady and their son, the very chic Jean, in the office. Maria was popular with ladies of a certain age, and she was a wonderful businesswoman, in spite of her sour appearance. She oversaw each transaction, scrutinised each new stone, did everything the clients expected – she had an innate business sense, even though her heirs say she was a hard taskmaster!
3 reasons to go to Labelchic
Choose what is different
Trend watcher Océane specialises in superior craftsmanship and she has travelled all over Asia to bring back treasures from Nepal or Mongolia. Later, she also started to specialise in beauty products, and uses the same passion to find small and exceptional beauty brands. Some weeks ago, Labelchic opened a shop in the rue Antoine Dansaert in Brussels, where you can benefit from her expertise and discover quality labels.
Go for the experience
Labelchic is not one of those snooty beauty shops where the products are way out of reach. Here, you can feel pampered and relaxed. In the beauty conservatory you find the plants and flowers that are used in the beauty products; in the cocooning parlour you can leaf through books and beauty magazines, sipping a home-made lemonade, and, last but not least, there is the texture bar where you can smell, touch and test the products on sale.
Discover exceptional cosmetics
The brands that Océane chooses are hardly or not at all distributed in Europe. They are all organic and produced by small beauty craftsmen, from herbalists in Los Angeles to family soap makers in Beirut. They are thoroughly tested for texture, perfume and efficiency before they are added to the collection. The products you find here are by, amongst others, De Mamiel, Dr. Alkaitis, Enfance Paris, Epara or Fig+Yarrow (photo).
Labelchic, 95 rue Antoine Dansaert, 1000 Brussels, www.labelchic-brussels.com or @labelchic_brussels
Patek Philippe, a pioneer in women’s watches
Since the 19th century, Patek Philippe has been known for its refined creations, made for the most fashion-conscious women of their time. For example, they made a piece for a Hungarian countess, which began the fashion for ladies wristwatches in 1867. Nowadays, women’s watches represent about 30% of the collections and the brand’s president Thierry Stern has already clearly stated that he wants to bring that up to 40%. To help him achieve this goal, he can count on the infallible taste of his artistic director of manufacturing, who happens to be his wife Sandrine.
All the iconic watches the Swiss watchmaker has produced over the years now have a feminine counterpart - Calatrava, Gondolo, Ellipse, Nautilus, Aquanaut.
“In the first place, a watch needs to fit into your lifestyle,” says Sandrine Stern. “That is why Patek Philippe not only offers sporty watches, but also classic pieces and evening watches with complex movements.”
The first ladies’ version of the Retrograde Perpetual Calendar patented by Patek Philippe (1996) was launched in 2005.
Patek Philippe not only offers sporty watches, but also classic pieces and evening watches with complex movements.
Twelve years later, this female version of the ‘grandes complications’ comprises some fifteen models, all of which can – an exceptional occasion - be seen together at an exhibition organised by Maison De Greef: minute repeater, annual calendar and perpetual calendar, moon phases, and most recently, a world time watch. This historic complication by Patek Philippe, which dates back to the 1930s, simultaneously shows the local time in 24 time zones. The new ladies’ version is driven by the mythical Calibre 240, an extra flat automatic movement that celebrates its 40th birthday this year and that now benefits from the latest technical developments in watchmaking.
The strength of Patek Philippe lies in the fact that everything is done on the premises, not just the movement, but also the housing, the dial, and the tiniest elements of the decoration – created by craftsmen who work on the premises.
Whether they are simple or complicated, these ladies’ watches are extremely feminine in their subtle details and clever colours. The same creativity can be seen in the mountings, such as the Diamond Ribbon, for which Sandrine Stern was inspired by gymnasts twirling their ribbons. The diamonds are set in a spiral, from the smallest to the largest, and the smaller diamonds are set beneath the casing. The designer stopped the spiral at 8 o’clock “because the eight is the symbol of infinity.” For Patek Philippe every detail counts!
Discover the collection of Patek Philippe here.
Nathalie Didden, carpet merchant
Colours, volume, extravagence... your jewellery suits you.
Yes! Except for my slim wedding ring with pink diamonds from De Greef, I only wear big pieces of jewellery, an in-between size is not me. And Arnaud Wittmann’s rings are perfect because he creates bold pieces.
Do you have a ritual?
I change jewellery every day when I get dressed. It is silly to wear the same jewellery every day: through the years you evolve, your taste and your style change. And I pay special attention to my hands: they are very much in the picture when I show carpets, samples... So I need rings, and a perfect manicure!
Arnaud and I, we speak the same language.
Where does your passion for jewellery come from?
My father gave me my first ring for my 13th birthday. I remember that we went to Antwerp specially to choose it, it had a small diamond and I was so proud! From my mother, who wore a lot of jewellery, I inherited my love for amethyst. I asked Arnaud Wittmann to make me a ‘Saturne’ in red gold and amethyst while it was only available in white gold and onyx. Since then, he has added it to his collection.
You often work together with Arnaud Wittmann to create made to measure jewellery. Before I took over Didden&Co I worked in the jewellery business for four years. Arnaud and I speak the same language. It’s so easy: he immediately understands what I mean when I want a new piece of jewellery, he knows my taste. That goes for new pieces, but also for transformations. I think I have maybe one or two rings that are still the same as when I bought them, the others have all been changed through the years. It’s also a question of principle: whether it’s about jewellery or food or fashion: I don’t buy much but I like to buy from certain people. The human aspect is important.
Didden & Co, 66 rue Blaes, 1000 Brussels www.diddenco.com
Bettina Gajac, lady of the waves
Bettina Gajac lives in Hossegor, in Les Landes. The small town near the ocean is a popular spot for surfers.
I was born in surf country, Biarritz, in the year surfing came to our coasts. I practice body surfing myself and have been diving in the waves since I was five years old. I feel close to nature and like striking, impressive, rather rough and wild pieces of jewellery.
I discovered Maison De Greef when I was visiting my daughter and son in law in Brussels. The name of the Wave collection immediately appealed to me. I found this gold piece in the shape of a wave that comes rolling in and then retreats again, incredibly inspiring.
I love wearing this piece when I am in Hossegor, in the house my father built, because it looks good against sun-kissed skin, the sand, the waves, the surf spirit, freedom and the beautiful light in my South West.
Discover the whole collection 'Wave' here.