Essentiel Antwerp X Virginie Morobé

People Essentiel Antwerp X Virginie Morobé

10 July 2019

In her shoes: Essentiel Antwerp X Virginie Morobé


They are both blond, they work hard, laugh harder, and are completely obsessed with shoes. Inge Onsea and Virginie Morobé have a lot in common and with Virginie now collaborating as the new shoe designer for Essentiel Antwerp, they even share an office sometimes.

We sat down with the powerhouse duo to discuss their new professional partnership, the first shoe collection for Fall/Winter 2019 and their love for footwear. 


Let’s talk shoes! We know you both love shoes, but do you remember when that fondness started?

Virginie:  For me, it started as a kid. Even at 3 or 4 years old I had a strong opinion about the shoes I liked and wanted to wear. I would constantly fight my mom over it in the stores. I went to a school that required a uniform, so our shoes had to be brown, black or blue. That was a drama in itself, but I would manage to find a way to stick to the rules and stand out at the same time. Black shoes with an oversized black flower on them, for example. Anything but the classic shoes my mom picked out.

Inge:  I’m the same. I’ve always loved shoes. I really believe that shoes make your outfit. I can’t exactly remember when or how my love for shoes started, but I do remember the first pair of designer shoes I bought. Red patent leather boots from Charles Jourdan with an orange and fuchsia pompon. I bought them in an outlet in Paris while I was working in Thierry Mugler’s showroom and I still have them today.

As shoe lovers, is it hard for you to get rid off a pair?

I:   Yes! That’s completely different with clothing though. People are always surprised by how small my closet is because I sort through it every so often and get rid of the things I don’t wear anymore. But when you enter my shoe closet… it’s all there. I have more shoes than bags and mostly high heels. I can’t pick favorites, I love them all, so I could never say goodbye to them.

V:   I store them externally. [Laughs].

I:   Really?

V:   Yes, but I have a good excuse, no? As a shoe designer, I keep a lot of the prototypes we wear, and I order a lot of the shoes I design for myself. Just from my own collection, MOROBÉ, we’re already talking 40 shoes a year I buy personally. And that’s without my collection for Essentiel Antwerp of which I already ordered 7, or any other brands…


This is your first collection for Essentiel Antwerp, how did this partnership come to life?

I:   At a bar!

V:   Inge had sent me a message via Instagram to join her for a drink.

I:   Just to be clear, that drink was a coffee. [Laughs].

V:   Of course, I already knew Inge and Essentiel Antwerp. So when Inge asked me to come on as the shoe designer, I didn’t hesitate. Essentiel Antwerp is so colorful and fun. It’s almost the complete opposite of what I do at MOROBÉ, where I work with a lot of blacks. At Essentiel Antwerp I get to run wild and free as a shoe designer which is incredibly fun to do.

I:   Before Virginie joined us, one of our accessories designers designed our shoes. But, we're growing a lot and designing shoes really is a separate field with its own particular skillset. It was a difficult combination, so we knew we had to find someone who could translate our collections into an equally fantastic shoe collection. Luckily, Virginie and I immediately clicked. She has the same amount of passion and energy for what she does like we do, which is essential to work together.

What is the design process like in a collaboration? How do you start?

V:   It all flows very organically. Before you start designing for another brand, it’s important to understand the values of the brand. What’s their DNA, what’s the message. As soon as you know, Inge, you know Essentiel Antwerp.

I:   The seasonal process starts with us showing Virginie the collection, the mood boards, the designs we’ve made for the season. And she immediately gets it. Explaining a mood, a vibe, or a style to someone external can be really hard, but Virginie really understands what we want to portray without words.

V:   After that, I go home, and I start to think. How would I wear that outfit? What shoe goes with it. What color, what style, … I always start my design process from within, my personal take on things and the input I get from Inge and Tom (De Poortere, Art Director at Essentiel Antwerp) without losing sight of what Essentiel Antwerp is. You can't make something that's not in line with the brand, you need to respect it.


You’ve now successfully launched the first shoe collection for Essentiel Antwerp together, Fall 2019. What’s the key to success?

V:   Trust and openness. You need to follow your gut, and my gut immediately told me Inge and Essentiel Antwerp was the right fit. You need to have respect for each other. Inge doesn’t need someone who just goes along with everything she says. She has the final voice, but sometimes it’s necessary to pull her out of her comfort zone every so often.

I:   That’s true. Tom has to do that too with the clothing. He can really fight me over something. Virginie is the same that way. At one point she told me she really wanted to add a ballerina to one of our upcoming collections, a style I personally hate. But she convinced me. Now I even think I would actually wear it myself. [Laughs]. I really have blind faith in her, she’s the specialist when it comes to shoes. It’s when we allow that, make room for each other’s expertise and vision that we get the best results.

Do you have a personal favorite shoe from the Fall/Winter 2019 collection?

I:   The white glitter cowboy boot. They don’t have a high heel, but they are covered in glitter so that works for me! [Laughs].

V:   The red croc-effect leather boots. They are so simple but just right. It was a lot of work to get the design perfect in its simplicity, but that’s what makes them so great. Add another style of leather, and they still look amazing, that’s when you know you’ve got the right shape.

Probably a hard question for a shoe lover to finish, but if you could only wear one shoe for the rest of your life… what would you wear?

I:   Heels! A very high stiletto heel. I would rather be in a wheelchair wearing heels than wearing a ballerina. [Laughs].

V:   That is a tough question! I think I would have to go for a military or cowboy boot. Probably a cowboy boot.

I:   That looks cool when you’re older!

V:   You’ll have a lot of back pains in those heels, though! You won’t be able to follow me through town.

I:   [Laughs]. I’ll have my wheelchair! You can easily push me in those cowboy boots! [Laughs].





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