By Alice Butterlin

Most of the world has been in lockdown for over a month now due to the COVID-19 crisis. A moment frozen in time, when people are faced with solitude, grief or anxiety and see their daily lives shift for the better or the worse. In this time of extreme uncertainty, we can also take the time to reflect, create and enjoy the passing of these strange elastic days. We thought it would be interesting to ask artists around the globe how their creative process has changed during the quarantine and if it has been an inspiring or rather daunting experience… with a quick snapshot of themselves in lockdown. A vegan of many years, Mats Rombaut knew from the very beginning that the future of fashion would be shaped by an ethical imperative to promote greater respect for the environment and its creatures. His eponymous shoe-brand, launched in 2015, mirrors his radical consciousness by only using innovative materials in place of animal products, with a focus on futuristic and fun designs that challenge preconceived notions of ethical footwear. Discover how he has been spending his days lately.

How has your daily life changed since lockdown began?

My whole team is now working from home, so the what’s app/email traffic is more intense than usual. And I used to travel almost half of the time to factories and meeting with clients all over the world. It was really wearing me out, so I’m happy I have more time at home now. My time in the studio hasn’t changed much though, because I was already not going out for months and really constantly working on all my different projects.

Have you had to rethink the way you create?

Not really, it’s more of an exercise to balance all the existing projects, all the changes that are happening around us. I’m lucky my team is as productive as usual so we just keep on going in a sustainable way, like we did before. It has made me realize we were going in the right direction, and I just have to keep on going and keep on improving. What we do rethink is the size of the collection, we will make it smaller and stronger.

Did you realize anything in particular during this time?

I had to come outside of my bubble that I was living in for a while, and see the reaction of an opportunistic fashion industry that I feel more than ever I don’t belong to at all.

Do you feel more inspired or paralyzed by the lockdown?

Definitely inspiring, as I have less people around me, less distractions. Usually I can only start working/thinking after 7pm when the team leaves. Before 7pm it’s all about “doing”.

Have you started or returned to any activities that you do not normally have time to do?

I was actually sick for three weeks with mild Covid symptoms at the beginning of the quarantine, and managing all the changes, so it’s only been a few days since I’m fully back on track. But yes: I watched The Office again, played some online video games and I recently started practicing gymnastics again. Something I haven’t done in twenty years!

What do you think you’ll take away from this shutdown?

I wasn’t really taking care of myself at all before, and during this period it’s better.

Are you worried?

No, my family is healthy. I am healthy. Economically it’s going to be tough, but the brand has been around for seven years. I’m always working on different projects to find a balance between what I love to do and what I have to do to pay the bills. Rombaut keeps me sane and creatively active. There is definitely a place for us in the world so I’m not worried about myself. I’m more worried about a next pandemic, which will happen if we don’t change our habits towards nature and animals in general.

How do you see life after this crisis?

It’s adapt or die, and we’re good at adapting. I hope people will become more conscious about what they’re buying, and start seeing the bigger picture. There is a lot of talk about “sustainability” but very little action. This whole greenwashing by big corporations & mainstream media makes me angry… I hope people will see through it, but I think now everyone has time to pause, reflect and educate themselves. So I do believe there will be some good coming out of all this!

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