The work of Bruno Pieters combines many aspects of what is considered essential to the “made in Antwerp” brand in fashion. He created a radical philosophy that was to prove of value: Bruno worked for Maison Martin Margiela and Christian Lacroix before assuming the creative direction position at Hugo by Hugo Boss.

However, all that happened before what Bruno describes as his “personal evolution,” which was triggered by a two-year sabbatical in India and has been motivating his work since. He had planned to leave the international fashion industry behind forever, but returned to launch his own brand: Honest By, a high-end label that puts transparency, ethical sourcing and organic materials at its core—a pioneering approach. Since his return to Antwerp he has been living with his two cats in an open-space penthouse above his studio.

What was your motivation and idea behind the brand Honest By?

Honest by is my personal and professional result of becoming more conscious in general. I was 35 when I took my Sabbatical and I just became more aware everything around me. The way the world functions, the fashion industry and, actually, many things that I thought weren’t normal, fair or honest. I was looking for a fashion brand in which I could find the information that I wanted to know. When you become more conscious of your surroundings you want to find more clarity and something that is in sync with your opinion. Since I couldn’t find that in any existing brand I created it myself. Although I have to say I wasn’t planning to continue fashion design at all. I had already experienced and achieved what I wanted and I wasn’t attracted to that business anymore. To be honest, in general, I am not attracted to the concept of business. It’s a strange thing in this world we have created.

I want people to use and see Honest By as an instrument for change.

Transparency and sustainability are not concepts you only deal with as a designer but also as a consumer and a human being. What is the biggest challenge? 

It’s all one big personal evolution which starts with food.

Yes, however if you go to a random restaurant you will never really know what’s on your plate.

There are so many restaurants that cook with the ingredients you love. There are a lot of options even in smaller cities. If you have any question, I would always recommend to just ask the owners. Most of the people are proud of what they are doing and will share every single detail.

How long have you been raising awareness? 

It’s an evolution of everyday life that grows a little bit every single day. There is no specific destination.

You’ve worked with many fashion houses and brands like Maison Martin Margiela and Christian Lacroix. You were also the creative director for Hugo by Hugo Boss and did a collaborative collection for Weekday. That’s a very broad and multifaceted list with established brands. Did you have to adjust your way of designing and if so, how?

I worked for Margiela and Lacroix at the very beginning of my career when I was still learning and developing my own style. Of course that was before I launched my own line. Since then the way brands approach me has changed. Weekday, for example, wanted my style, look and approach to design for a line called “Weekday by Bruno Pieters”. I had complete artistic freedom and I didn’t have to adapt to anything. Hugo by Hugo Boss was a brand with no identity so I gave it mine and they are still using it. That wasn’t a major challenge. The fashion houses reach you only if they think you fit their brand or if they want their brand to become similar to yours.

The street style wave and people who become “trendsetters” provokes the feeling that the term “trend” is not used in its original sense. Hypes around one specific look don’t really exist anymore.

That’s true. I generally like that “new” variety. It creates a suitable environment for individuality.

There are a lot of people who are part of certain groups or movements simply by dressing up in a specific way. But there are less and less people who want to belong to a certain brand. Generally I think that nowadays there is a lot more space for trying out styles and not restricting yourself when it comes to clothes. It’s a good evolution.

This article has been edited and condensed, originally appearing in Freunde von Freuden book, available now.