From Belgium to Marrakech with a sewing machine: Laurence Leenaert’s story

The Belgian designer tells us about her multi-disciplinary project between art and design: a lifestyle brand born from a trip to the desert

Laurence Leenaert
Eva Donckers

Working from a Medina in Marrakech wouldn’t seem to be the best strategy to achieve international recognition. However, if we look at LRNCE, the modern accessories and textile line by Laurence Leenaert, it will be clear why it is actually so successful. Her unique modern taste comes from tradition and is influenced by Picasso-inspired art.

Laurence came a long way, from studying at KASK in Gent, Belgium, and working as an intern at fashion brand Bless in Berlin. Since then, she decided to have her own brand and to work on her own bag line. Her design developed quickly, from focusing on lines and grids to embracing more abstract, almost human-like shapes that today decorate textiles, rugs, ceramics, kimonos, sandals and everything else she sells in her studio-showroom and in stores around the world, from Paris to New York City, Sweden and Switzerland.

She’s an artist with a big heart, in love with design and we asked her to share her vision with us in an interview.

Laurence, what’s LRNCE?

LRNCE is a lifestyle brand based in Marrakech focused on interior decoration and accessories. We revolutionised the aim of materials, spontaneously combining them to create unique design pieces. As we manufacture them in North Africa, we try our best to capture the local artisanal spirit and to remain close to the products hand-making process.

Laurence Leenaert
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Why Marrakech?

After a magical trip in the desert with my sister, I decided I was going to come back. So one day I booked a flight, shipped my sewing machine and stayed there an entire month working on some new projects. Once back in Belgium, I realised I couldn’t live there anymore and I moved to Morocco. I initially wanted to go to the desert but it was really not feasible to work there so I opted for Marrakech. At the beginning it was hard: the culture is very different and my financial resources were limited. After a while, by working on new projects and by meeting the right people it all worked out.

From opening your online store three years ago, you now got to your own showroom...

Yes, opening the showroom was a great chance for us to personally meet our clients, and what’s better than that? Every day we meet interesting people working in the creative sector and many, many young people.

Laurence Leenaert
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Where do you find inspiration?

This land offers a lot of stimuli. I meet with craftsmen everyday, I move a lot, I constantly explore new methods and techniques. Morocco is truly magic.

What are you working on at the moment?

I just got back from a month of travel and work. I was at Maison et Objet in Paris and at NY NOW in New York City. I loved meeting new people and showing them our products for the first time. Now I’m back in Marrakech and focusing on manufacturing, designing of new products and researching new materials. A little bit of everything at the same time, as our brand is extremely spontaneous.

Laurence Leenaert
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Your brand goes from textiles to ceramics and fashion...

Yes, each product is somehow connected to the other and it’s interesting to see how they all evolve together. Working on textiles leads me to create sandals, blankets, cushions, clothes and rugs. Ceramics can be incorporated into paintings, blanket designs and kimonos patterns. Everything moves in the same direction.

Any project for the future?

We opened our showroom only 6 months ago and we would already like to turn it into a gallery with a restaurant and coffee bar annexed. We’re still working on it. Maybe in a few years we’ll do something completely different. I like to have the freedom of not making too many plans: this is how it all started and I want to keep this spirit.

Laurence Leenaert
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