Speaking Of Style

Stephanie Specht

A passion for bold graphic design, a deft hand at minimal illustrations and an eye for fashion - Stephanie Specht has it all. With her Specht Studio in Antwerp, she breaks down the barriers of her field in a modern, playful manner.

Words by Karin Cuppens
Header photography by Vicky Janssen

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 Photography by Mads Teglers

We enter Stephanie Specht’s apartment in Antwerp on a cloudy Thursday afternoon, where we are immediately overwhelmed by the amount of positive energy, colourful designs and the breath-taking view over the city of diamonds. ‘For the moment, I will stay in Antwerp, but I can never really say for sure’, she says with a smile. ‘Up until now, my life has brought me to so many different places around the world: Cape Town, Brussels, Brooklyn, Princeton, LA,...’

Growing up with the idea that she wanted to become an architect, Stephanie changed course after high school and studied graphic design at college. ‘My mock-ups were really good, but my math was terrible,’ she admits. ‘My high school teachers advised me to go in another direction.’ Years later, she clearly doesn’t regret this choice, since she can indulge in a kind of ‘best-of-both-worlds’ experience. ‘I like the fact that now, it is the opposite of before. When I wanted to become an architect, graphic design was very inspiring to me, yet, for the moment, it's the other way around. It is exhilarating to work with clients that are architects. These jobs are far more than just a project: they make me develop other ideas as well.’

When I wanted to become an architect, graphic design was very inspiring to me, yet, for the moment, it is the other way around. It is exhilarating to work with clients that are architects.

The creative centipede also nurtures a strong relationship with music. It doesn't solely serve as a trigger for her work; she also enjoys teaming up with musicians or collectives to conceive graphic designs or illustrations. Stephanie explains: ‘I think, since the end of 2016, due to my illustrations, I got in contact with Belgian musicians, such as Baloji. He and I, we just matched: we started working together a year ago. We share a mutual interest in the same things such as music, art and fashion.’ And so she designed the cover of his upcoming album as well as doing all the graphic work for his film.

The Antwerp-based creator also released a book named ‘These five years’. ‘The first version saw the light in 2011; it was self-published. Then, after a year, an editor in Belgium picked it up, and he published it in 2012. It is actually a ‘5-year plan’ that I made.’ And now, exactly five years later she finds herself at a crossroads. ‘Ironically, I designed the book for myself as a reflection on the next five years: what do I want to do? After this period I could take a moment to think about what I am actually doing and in which direction I would like to proceed,’ she tells us. ‘I suggested elements of reflection to people and the pages were designed with illustrations. All very playful.’

‘I suggested elements of reflection to people and the pages were designed with illustrations. All very playful.’
From a book about the future, let's go back to where Stephanie is now. Her work ethos is often described as colourful, yet minimal all the same. She best describes it as: ‘If you say colourful and intuitive, then minimal usually doesn’t spring to mind. You think of an explosion, of chaos. But I make controlled chaos. The chaos feels like: yes, I have to do this.’ And while her work might be out-there, her fashion style is quite the opposite. ‘I already make prints for my job,’ she laughs, ‘I don’t feel the need to also wear them. Prints, to me, are very time-driven, especially on clothing. So if I wear a print, it is a striped pattern most of the time. I think that my closet is also stacked with neutral colours. I own mostly beige and white pieces. A lot of blue as well. All shades of blue. I almost have no black in my wardrobe. And if I wear a colour accent, it is mostly my socks or a scarf’, Stephanie tells us. 

When working from home, she prefers to sport a daily outfit that features a certain neutral aesthetic. Stephanie describes her uniform as multifunctional layering: ‘Yes, I wear a lot of trousers that are not loose but not too tight either. Then I add at least two comfortable layers. I almost never wear only one shirt, maybe in Summer, but in Winter, it always a T-shirt that really fits well with which I can combine certain jewellery styles to upgrade it.’ When asked about her ultimate style icons, the name Alexa Chung pops up. ‘I just admire her aesthetic. The contradictory nature of her style. I like her roughness combined with sophisticated dressing. I don’t see myself as a typical woman, so she offers a great deal of inspiration for me.’

Stephanie muses on about Yara Flinn, the fashion designer behind the brand Nomia, and Maryam Nassir Zadeh, who makes her fashion heart beat faster. ‘Style, to me, is making your personality visible through clothing. You can show which colours you like, and with textiles and textures, you can show who you are. Make your aesthetic visible,’ she replies when asked about the definition of style.

Style, to me, is making your personality visible through clothing

One might say that the future looks bright for the talented graphic designer, but she prefers to remain grounded with a Belgian touch of realism and an eternal curiosity for the unknown. ‘I really need to reinvent my life’, she admits. ‘To work in a different manner. And most of all, enjoy my free time more. Because being a workaholic will not ensure delivering good projects. I think that if you go for projects where you get a bit more breathing space, interesting things can happen.’

Follow Stephanie Specht on Instagram or explore her artwork on stephaniespecht.com.

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