For Parisian Gentlemen and various magazines, I take my round edges, bespoke suits and tab collar shirts round the world in a quest for exceptional labels and workshops. Little did I know that one of my most significant aesthetic and sartorial shocks would be delivered by an address dedicated to masculine elegance in… Brussels, Belgium.
And yet, I have visited a great number of exceptional gentlemen shops, such as Isetan (Tokyo) with its plethoric offer and supernatural service, Prada’s flagship store in New York boasting a round elevator, France’s, Italy’s and England’s greatest bespoke workshops, Tom Ford’s gorgeous addresses in the world’s capitals and the magnificent shops of Dubai, Hong Kong and Las Vegas, just to name a few among hundreds.
It is indeed on Avenue Louise, a bit remote from Brussels, that I discovered what I now consider as the most beautiful space entirely dedicated to classic masculine elegance that I have ever visited the world over: la Maison Pierre Degand.
Describing the Maison Degand, even at length, is a journalistic feat, such as this unique space has, as far as I know, no equal in terms of selection, environment, architecture and atmosphere. It is exactly why I could not find a term than better “space” to define it as no current word (Shop ? Store ? Department store ? Multibrand store? Mall ?) could remotely do it justice.
That the Maison Degand is capable of dressing any man from tip to toe is an absolute understatement: Pierre Degand provides ALL the necessities, and so much more, in supernatural quality and quantity, all selected with taste.
Speaking of Degand Tailleur without speaking of founder Pierre Degand is futile. The man and the address might as well be one.
The story of Degand in Brussels is first and foremost a fabulous success story. Almost 40 years ago, 14 year old Pierre veered from the academic path to start a men’s clothing retail operation in a small stall of the Zoute (Belgium’s most famous beachside resort), under the watchful eye of his mother.
As years went by, his business sense, his ravenous passion for men’s clothes, his unsinkable energy and his sense of service make all the difference culminating in, a few years later, his winning (at an auction) of what still stands as the central building and masterpiece of his life : his magnificent property on Avenue Louise, that has nothing to blush about in being compared to the most beautiful hotels particuliers of Paris.
When Pierre Degand tells his story, in his soft and eloquent pitch, one is stunned by his deliciously paradoxical nature and that of the space he has created to resemble him: discreet yet extravagant, calm yet passionate, affable yet drawn to the extreme, humble yet exuberant. If I had to describe him or his environment, I might choose to call them radical, despite the lack of elegance of the qualifier. Indeed, Pierre Degand follows his ideas to the very end, to say the least, to propel his clients to the end of their personal and sartorial dreams.
Today, the Maison Pierre Degand occupies over 2,000 square meters of pure sartorial bliss over 3 main locations: “Degand Tailleur” dazzles with a series of salons each dedicated to one aspect of our vestiaries with products of the highest calibre for each, “Degand Business and Sport” where gents find more accessible -- yet still handpicked goods, and two-year old brand new “Degand Shoes”, without a doubt one of the best retailers of sublime shoes in the world with ranges from all the best brands: Edward Green, John Lobb, Pierre Corthay, Tod’s and Santoni, just to name a few.
Nothing really exceptional in terms of organization for a structure meant as the most beautiful retailer of men’s goods in the world. Nevertheless, the first step taken in the hall resembling a twentieth century English bank with a majestic counter like those often seen on Savile Row at Huntsman and Sons and others, brings a shiver of content at the sights to be seen. For all amateurs of masculine style, visiting Degand turn you into five year olds discovering Disneyland for the first time.
Here, a salon with a head spinning selection of over 600 suits (mainly Brioni and Kiton) and racks adorned with vicuna and baby cashmere.
There, the shirt section with an exceptional choice including the greatest names: Fray, Kiton, Burini and Brioni.
On the second floor, a cosy salon dedicated to formal and ceremonial wear, followed by the hat section unlike anything usually found in a general sartorial retailer. A few meters onward, and you find a space entirely dedicated to raincoats and outerwear and a room filled with knits and fabulous Ballantyne and Fedeli cashmere…
And there is more. The further you go, the more spaces unveil their treasures one after the other: for one that contains a selection of masculine fragrances, another one is dedicated to canes and umbrellas. Another yet contains only robes and pyjamas, or breath taking accessories selections with extensive collections of tie clips, garters, suspenders. And what about that marvellous room dedicated to cufflinks made by a high level French artisan based on Pierre Degand’s own design ? Or, on the top floor, the superb cigar cave (with cigars unearthed by Degand himself) ?
It is precisely when one walks into the next salon after that containing the cigar caves that the qualifier “radical” takes on all its meaning. It features exceptional pieces including high luxury backgammon boxes, a wine travelling case created by the Ephtee workshop in Bordeaux, designed specially to fit the trunk of a Rolls Royce. This is what dreams are made of.
All photos © Andy Julia for Parisian Gentleman
How did such a smorgasbord (to say the least) of exclusive wonders ever land in Brussels when none, including the furniture, would clash in a Venetian palace or a Victorian London home? The answer is obvious: not only a tireless worker, Pierre Degand has exceptional experience and taste, but also, and maybe most importantly, he has retained his childlike candour and is still inspired awe by the beauty of an object, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.
The only difference, as you may have gathered, is that Pierre Degand is everything but a child when it comes to steering his business, selecting vendors, choosing fabrics or managing as an enlightened patriarch the 35 or so staff bustling about around him. The offer of this gigantic sartorial vessel is quite simply nothing short of plethoric as it includes bespoke, industrial measure and ready-to-wear.
If your perfectly glazed galoshes take you to Brussels, I can only urge to pay a visit to this essential address of masculine style. Consider yourselves warned: you are highly unlikely to walk out empty handed…
“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in” said Leonard Cohen in his Anthem. There is no better way to describe the highly endearing Pierre Degand. If his reason is a smidgen cracked, he indeed lets in a lot of light.
Hats off to Pierre and all his team!
To be followed…