Norine Couture. The embodiment of the Belgian avant-garde, 1915-1952

Start - End 
2021 - 2024 (ongoing)



The Brussels couture house Norine was led from c. 1915 to 1952 by the charismatic couple Honorine Deschryver, dite "Norine" (1887-1977), and Paul-Gustave Van Hecke (1887-1967). Although Norine is all but forgotten, its legacy is of great importance, and not only for fashion.

Norine was the first and for a long time only Belgian house offering original creations instead of copying Paris. Its avant-garde designs transcended the Belgian conventionality. Norine was also an important artistic hub. Van Hecke made his name as patron of the arts and art dealer, curator, couturier, and more ways besides. The Van Heckes were prominent in local and international avant-garde circles and Norine’s salons showcased Expressionist and Surrealist art. In-house illustrations were entrusted to Frits Van den Berghe, Geo Navez, Gustave Van de Woestyne, Leon De Smet, E.L.T. Mesens, and above all René Magritte. In their fashions, the Van Heckes were above all inspired by Modernism. A few examples: from 1925, robe peintes, inspired by Cubism and undoubtedly handprinted by Magritte. In 1925 and 1938, dresses embroidered after designs by Raoul Dufy. A 1927 blouse featuring an embroidery after the work of Max Ernst, making Norine a pioneer of the integration of surrealist imagery in fashion. Also a 1938 embroidery was after Max Ernst. This is the only known collaboration of Ernst with the world of fashion.

For nearly forty years Norine stood at the crossroads of artistic disciplines, and at the vanguard of the art and fashion world. Neither a story about the relationship between art and fashion, nor about the history of fashion in Belgium, and even worldwide, would be complete without Norine.


Research objectives

This dissertation undertakes the first thorough study of the couture house Norine. Through archival research and in the form of a monograph, using a hybrid art-and-fashion historical approach, it endeavors to unravel the complexity of the Norine phenomenon. The study will contain biographical information about the Van Hecke-Deschryver couple and provide a history of the rise and fall of their couture house.  Next, it intends to offer an overview of their creations in order to analyze the houses’ evolution in style. Thirdly, it aims to describe Norine’s position within the Belgian artistic avant-garde and the world of fashion. We will penetrate the complex interplay between personal-biographical developments, political-ideological avatars, business factors and artistic aspirations. Lastly, a report of the conservation of a c. 1925 dress attributed to Norine (possibly a robe peinte) carried out by the PhD candidate will be included.



Phd Student(s)