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Travel Diary | Belgium

(Alex is wearing the DARK INDIGO CLASSIC SHIRT)

In June we went on a trip that has been a dream for years-a visit to Belgium to see flax fields and the mill where our linen is woven. The wait paid off and we enjoyed an incredible trip and the edifying experience of learning more about our supply chain and meeting its makers face to face.

linen, women's linen shirt, linen tank top, Belgium, Belgian linen, flax, Belgian flax, Oyster Pieced Tank Top(Lilly is wearing the PIECED OYSTER LINEN TANK TOP)

Linen is woven from the processed fiber of the flax plant which grows at its finest in the specific climate off the North Sea between Normandy and the Netherlands smack dab in the what is modern day Belgium.  

The growing cycle for flax is a short 100 days and just before it is ready to harvest it erupts with beautiful blue flowers that last for only a day before falling from the plant. Our hope was that our trip would coincide with this bloom, it didn’t, it has been a dry spring which has delayed the majority of the flowers, but we were still able to see a few flowers and the green flax in the field. But most importantly it was great to see that the underlying material for our garments is still being cultivated in small non-industrial plots of farmland scattered throughout this region.

blluemade, Blluemade, flax, vlas, flax flower, Flanders, linen, Soft Pocket Shirt, Men's linen shirt(Alex is wearing the DARK INDIGO SOFT POCKET SHIRT and Lilly is wearing a forthcoming shirt for SS2018)

blluemade, Blluemade, flax, vlas, flax flower, Flanders, linen

blluemade, Blluemade, flax, vlas, flax flower, Flanders, linen

blluemade, Blluemade, flax, vlas, flax flower, Flanders, linen

We also visited the mill that weaves all of our linen. Libeco in the small town of Meulebeke, is one of the last remaining weavers in Belgium still making textiles for clothing. We were able to tour every part of the mill, from the machines that load the yarn bobbins to the warp beams, and the impressive inspection room where they still inspect every inch of fabric by human eye and repair any defect by hand.

Belgian flax, Belgian linen, Belgium, Flanders, Weaving, Mill, blluemade, Blluemade

Belgian flax, Belgian linen, Belgium, Flanders, Weaving, Mill, blluemade, Blluemade

Belgian flax, Belgian linen, Belgium, Flanders, Weaving, Mill, blluemade, Blluemade

Belgian flax, Belgian linen, Belgium, Flanders, Weaving, Mill, blluemade, Blluemade

We spent time learning more about the history of the region. At the Texture Museum in Kortijk, which focuses on the region's contribution to the flax industry, we saw images and machinery from the height of the Belgian flax industry in the 19th century and heard oral testimony about the industry's decline in the 20th century as cheap cotton and synthetic fibers grew in prominence on the global market. Today, the need for alternatives to water-hungry cotton and petroleum-dependent synthetics is greater than ever, and there is a lot to consider about the sustainability of the historic flax farming in Flanders.

linen history, Texture Museum, flax history, Kortrijk, Belgian linen, Belgian flax, Belgium

There were also great pictures of Belgian flax farmers in some incredible examples of 19th and 20th century European work wear. 

linen history, Texture Museum, flax history, Kortrijk, Belgian linen, Belgian flax, Belgium, Workwear, Archival Images, Vintage

linen history, Texture Museum, flax history, Kortrijk, Belgian linen, Belgian flax, Belgium, Workwear, Archival Images, Vintage

linen history, Texture Museum, flax history, Kortrijk, Belgian linen, Belgian flax, Belgium, Workwear, Archival Images, Vintage

Not all our time was dedicated to linen--we took time to see wonderful examples of art ranging from both early European, like the impressive Van Eyck’s in Bruges, the Ghent Altarpiece, and paintings by Flemish Primitive Hans Memling, and contemporary art, like the spectacular Anish Kapoor sculpture in Axel Vervoordt's collection in Antwerp.

Flemish Primitives, European painting, Bruges, Jan van Eyck, Flax Overalls(Lilly is wearing STONEWASHED FLAX LINEN NAVY OVERALLS)

Anish Kapoor, blluemade, Belgian linen, flax, pullover, Axel Vervoordt(Lilly is wearing the STONEWASHED FLAX LINEN FRENCH SHIRT)

Everywhere we went we explored Belgium’s beautiful cities and nature. The natural and built landscape of Belgium is a cultural lesson in how to mix grays, blues, and earthy reds. It may have something to do with the relation of Belgium’s low brick buildings and the often powder blue sky coming over the North Sea. There is a discernible link between the colors and richness of the landscape and the fabrics we love and admire so much.

linen, Belgian linen, flax, Belgian flax, textiles

Belgium, color story, flax, linen, Bruges

Belgium, color story, flax, linen, Brussels

Belgium, color story, flax, linen, Bruges, Stonewashed Flax Overalls, blluemade, Blluemade(Lilly is wearing STONEWASHED FLAX LINEN NAVY OVERALLS)

Belgium, color story, flax, linen

Belgium, color story, flax, linen, Antwerp

Belgium, color story, flax, linen, Antwerp

Belgium, color story, flax, linen, De Haan

Belgium, color story, flax, linen, Jarbeke(Alex is wearing the DARK INDIGO CLASSIC SHIRT)

We expect this to be the beginning of a long relationship with Belgium and its fantastic textiles and look forward to our next adventure there.