Welcome to NOUVEAU MONDE: A Streetwear Brand that Surpasses All Odds in the Fashion Industry

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When you think of a historical country like Belgium, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The European Union? Leopold II? Or perhaps its famous waffles and fries? Well, let me tell you this; from the first time I had the opportunity of travelling to its region, there has been a small yet strong creative community of bold artists slowly growing into stardom. At my first stage; however, is none other than self-proclaimed luxury streetwear brand MONDE 9 by Marc Kongolo that I have been patiently observing for years.

It is a rainy night in Brussels and it has been so the entire week I must say. We have planned with Marc to meet at the Place de Brouckère this Tuesday at 7:30 pm, specifically at the Ancien Hôtel Continental, which now operates as a cosy barista on the ground floor and a local spot for artists to rent a space and pretty much do whatever they please in this matter. From our conversation online, Marc is coming from Paris and so, unsurprisingly, I am the first to arrive. He revealed to me across multiple messages that this is the last chance we have to meet in person as he is moving to Miami the next day. From the bad weather to a strike on local transport, it seems like all odds are against us. But, due to both of our determination, we greet each other with a warm hug, excited to finally put a face behind the words we’ve been exchanging all this time.

Our host this evening is another belgium artist, namely Omar Charaf from On View, a tasteful operation that deals with vintage eyewear, and who was kind enough to let us lead an interview in his own sanctuary. As we enter the room, sunglasses surround us from every direction, notably a photo frame carrying Marc’s most striking campaign yet as part of an ensemble of what seems like souvenirs, all neatly placed on a glass table in the centre of the room. I walk directly towards it and it is as though I’ve seen the image for the very first time. 

The thing about NOUVEAU MONDE or MONDE 9, which is vividly clear, is that Marc is not just offering a set of cool garments. I repeat, MONDE 9 is not just selling you clothes, it is selling you an entire universe. From its striking imagery to small details like unorthodox logo placements and choice of fabrics, everything was garnered from Marc’s own mind, with the goal of what he envisions clothes to look and feel like worn by individuals such as himself.

I begin with the first thought that comes in my head; why the elf ears, luminous eyes and this distinctive selection of faces? Without hesitation, Marc reveals that he believes MONDE 9 is for individuals who dare to be different and at a cost, are recognized by society almost like extraterrestrial beings. At first glance, that is what ultimately intrigues you about NOUVEAU MONDE as you are sure that whatever you may come across, this is an experience you won’t find anywhere else. Sitting at a well-sized following throughout social media pages, MONDE 9 definitely serves as a niche only to be ravished upon those who still appreciate fashion for its curiosity, thoughtfulness and pushing boundaries no matter if it is from the likes of The Antwerp Six or a creative mind such as Marc Kongolo.

So, who is Marc Kongolo? You may ask. Marc is a young artist from Belgium who first found his foot in the world of stocking trade at the age of 17. He unveils: “At some point, I had it all; the girl, the crib, the money. Yet, I was still unhappy.” And this is where the idea of MONDE 9 first came into play, slowly making itself known at the peak of the Covid pandemic in 2020. Has he ever thought of attending one of the fancy art schools in Antwerp when it became blatantly clear at 21 that he wanted to make clothes? No. In fact, it never even crossed his mind. To my surprise, Marc is not aware of Japanese brands such as Undercover which in my humble opinion, draws some similarities with NOUVEAU MONDE’s own language, from one creative mind (Jun Takashi) to the other (Marc Kongolo) who arguably think alike. Its playfulness and fantasy-like way of operating where inspiration can be drawn from movies as much as plays or comics that make these sorts of fashion brands tick. 

As we proceed with our interview, I notice this sense of innocence in him that only ever appears in children before it is wiped away by the harshness of reality. In most scenarios, this young adult's lack of knowledge of the fashion sphere would seem a bit immature; however, it is his childlike mind that is most fascinating and any influences you would think he drew inspiration from becomes laughable. I must say that there were talks of Ye (formerly known as Kanye West) and Virgil Abloh, two culturally-relevant figures who changed the face of fashion forever. However, nothing seems to come together as Marc makes mention of his admiration for them as individuals who opened doors for others but not as direct links to NOUVEAU MONDE.

Of course, this leads me to trying to find out if he maybe has any mentors to vent to in support of his creative journey; however, all of my attempts are useless. MONDE 9 is a one man show and the person navigating it through the storm is Marc, solo. With two impressive pop up events in Antwerp and one in Liège under his belt, we quickly rush through a moment where one of the occasions had the presence of a giant balloon globe. His highlight; however, was Marc's opportunity to display his brand at a particular gallery which he fondly talks about running through the memory. Although MONDE 9 is in the literal word an international brand of the world, Marc definitely holds a special place for Belgium in his heart. He admits the reason why he has not done a pop up event in his home city of Brussels is because he is still waiting for the perfect moment. “When I drop by in Brussels, my city” he declares. “The event has to be big! It has to be out of this world, literally.” he adds.

At this moment, we’re seated in this velvet sofa facing the glass table when Marc suddenly stands up and reveals a range of MONDE 9 caps hidden underneath it all along. A big “9” covers each panel with an interesting “0” layer stitched on the visor. The choice of colours are also descriptive. Their tone being so specific that they complement one another without ranging from the same group of colour palettes. What Marc; however, seems most geeked about is the fabric and how luxury they feel. It’s true, with just one brush with my thumb and I imagine this is how a Loro Piana baseball cap must feel like worn by character Logan Roy in Succession. These hats are not only rich in colour, but also in touch and this is where Marc coins the luxury streetwear as his base since MONDE 9 caters to a certain look as much as a high-end feel.

 “Luxury is a standard of skill” you hear him uttering out his mouth and that is when some of it starts to click. Marc’s understanding of luxury is the maintenance of quality which he proudly has prioritised since the creation of MONDE 9 and as a result, sets him apart from a crowd of emerging streetwear brands traditionally starting with whatever materials they can get their hands on. “These were all made here in Antwerp,” he let me know with a smile on his face. And I don’t think this will necessarily change anytime soon since Marc always has quality in mind. When we follow up with his clients and the type of people that gravitate towards MONDE 9, he informs me the following; “Whoever buys this cap, they always end up telling me that this is their favourite one.” At its core, this is what a luxury item aims to do; become your favourite piece in your closet.

We are at an interesting chapter in Marc’s life which seems like it will change MONDE 9 for the better or worse. In a market such as the United States where competition is high and its speed is the complete opposite of the calm, relaxed and laid back approach of Belgium, I wonder if Marc is fully aware of what is coming and how he plans on making his mark known. Throughout his explanation, it is obvious that Marc does not have a concrete plan on how MONDE 9 will live true to its name across the Atlantic ocean. Interestingly,  when he speaks of the future, one begins to understand that MONDE 9 doesn’t derive from a place of fear and limitations, a new idea could come to his head the moment he lands in Florida and it will be as impactful and strong as any well-thought out strategy planned out for months by a corporate team in some company.

I came to find out whether Marc was a product of his environment, mainly the booming art scene in Belgium and what I realised instead is Marc has always been just a product of… well, Marc. This young visionary is self-made and he gets his inspiration, knowledge, motivation from his own imagination that was forged into NOUVEAU MONDE. Although he takes pride in his roots and the place he grew up in, to look at MONDE 9 as just a Belgium brand in the same breath as Arte Antwerp would be reducing. Au contraire, it elevates him! MONDE 9 reaches heights that can roam in any realm, from a place like Sri Lanka, admits Marc himself, to Brussels, Miami or any location Marc decides to continue his journey.