The SPACE Showcase was an extravaganza of talented Leuven-based creative talent. Many artists stood out with their creations and their work. One of them was Maarten De Naeyer, founder of Skrew Studio, who we met. “At one point I was ready to move to Antwerp, but in hindsight, I’m more than happy that I stayed in Leuven.” That calls for an interview.
How did you experience the SPACE Showcase this year?
“After attending last year’s SPACE event as well, I can say that this edition was an absolute blast. Meeting all the visitors who stopped by and showed an interest in what I do was amazing. But also meeting other creative individuals from Leuven and talking about ideas, projects and things like that. This allowed me, and undoubtedly the other participants as well, to get in touch with new contacts for collaborations. I had a specifically good talk with Huff&Puff, the new pocketwear brand, and there was a lot of interest for a collaboration between the two of us. So we’ll see how that evolves.”
That’s just what we like to hear! The collaboration is perfectly possible since you first started out with a clothing brand, right?
“Yes, after getting my Master’s degree in graphic design, I followed a course in webdesign but this didn’t satisfy me creatively. During my Master studies, however, I discovered that I started to develop my own style and I stimulated my development by making an album cover a day for a whole schoolyear. It taught me that creating visuals and images was really what I love. And so I started my own graphic studio/streetwear label Skrew Studio while I was still a student. For the moment, I am mainly focusing on prints so the sweaters are on sale now (laughs).”
Are you already running Skrew Studio full time?
“No, for the moment, Skrew Studio is my side project. I also work as a graphic designer. In a couple of weeks, I’ll start working at Uncompressed, a branding and illustration company nearby. But who knows what the future will bring. I chose to name it a studio because I started out with streetwear, now I mainly do art prints, but in the future I’d like to work with musicians or other artists as well.”
The style of the art prints you are designing now is very abstract, how does an intriguing design like that come to be?
“In my current project, of which the prints were displayed at the SPACE Showcase, I create one poster every day for 100 days straight. To me it’s interesting to push yourself into making an intriguing design every day. I noticed that some days it’s really hard, like today for example (laughs). I don’t really have an inspiration for this project, but my focus lies with the tension between forms and textures, as you can see in my work. In order to keep it challenging, I limit myself to black, white and one extra colour. In the end, though, all these prints show a clear vision and they all breath out a kind of tranquility. That’s something that I consider as a goal each time I start out with a blank canvas.”
So you’ve only been busy for two years, but seem to have made quite a name for yourself; musicians are wearing your sweaters, you’re exposing at SPACE Showcase and you’re one of the faces of the Baas campaign.
By starting Skrew Studio, I got in touch with a whole lot of people and this opened up a lot of doors, of which Baas is definitely an example. You might have seen my head all over Leuven, this was kind of a weird experience. This is an initiative where a selection of twenty participants would be coached and followed-up for a year. I was also featured as a talent in Weekend Knack's special on Belgian Fashion Day. Things like that helped me get a lot of brand awareness.
Did you receive a lot of help from people or organisations in Leuven?
“None at all. I was considering to leave Leuven and move to Antwerp, where I received a lot more support during starting up. Naturally, this pulled me towards Antwerp. I have to be honest, however, I never really looked out for supporting initiatives in Leuven simply because I never thought they existed here.”
Would a trajectory like this in Leuven have had a big impact on your development here?
“I think so. My trajectory wouldn’t necessarily have been different, but I would’ve had a lot more time to gain ground in Leuven; something that just started happening for the past couple of months now. I also started profiling myself as being from Leuven, it hasn’t been mentioned on my Instagram page until recently, for example. So now I’m promoting myself as a graphical designer from Leuven. Not from Flanders or Belgium … but Leuven.
Maarten wearing 'Oddysey', one of his creations
What eventually caused the switch that made you stay in Leuven after all?
“Because of initiatives like Leuven MindGate, SPACE, HAL 5 and of course the ever growing Vaartkom area. I’m also really looking forward to the and& festival and summit next year, that’s such a unique festival and I’m utterly curious about what to expect. But yeah, you really feel that a lot of things are happening in Leuven and I hope that our city will continue along this path because it’s already paying off.”
Can Leuven improve even more?
“A permanent spot where creative entrepreneurs can show their work all year long, organised by Leuven MindGate creativity for example. And more initiatives like Baas to keep on supporting those starters really have such a big carry over.”
We’re on it. See you at and&!