What is your definition of vintage?
Vintage is defined by its aesthetic. I think you have to differentiate between vintage and what is to me all that is authentic, historical and retro, which is also inspired from dated styles. At Radio Modern parties, we find a little of both. We try to be as authentic as possible by wearing jewelry and outfits from the time period. However, we are still conscientious of the time period that we are living in now. We try to have as many live performances as possible because years ago they didn’t have DJs, but we can’t ask artists to play for the entire night. We strive for this sort of authenticity, but we don’t impose it. There is no dress code.
Where do you get your passion for vintage?
Everyone has a different story. Ben, thanks to him who started it all, there’s a true cult dedicated to the 1950’s. There were already three musical groups. It’s Ben’s oldest brother, Tim, who gave him the bug, and now they both rock the ‘50’s look all the time. For me, I like to mix it up a little. I especially like the style and the décor from the 40’s to the 60’s, but it’s not my whole life style. For music, I am a fan of the 80’s and 90’s. When I’m the mixer at a party, it’s especially for the 50’s and 60’s parties. I don’t confine myself to a single genre.
How did the Neo Retro parties get started?
Six years ago, Ben launched the first party at Teuven which had a huge success. He decided to repeat and one thing led to another; these parties were blowing up in popularity. At the end of one year, they became so popular that he needed help organizing them. The problem was that it was always the same people who kept coming back. So he decided to start gearing the parties towards different styles to attract a wider audience, but always with an oldies flare!
Do you think Brussels is a capital of vintage?
Absolutely. When I meet people who are looking for vintage clothing, I send them to Brussels, because there you can often pick up older clothing. What is more is that there are a lot of things going on in Brussels and a lot of vintage fans. It’s only natural that we have the Bonnefooi, the Tentation and bars like Madame Moustache. We find that in Brussels, there is still this very Jacques Brel spirit, “c’etait au temps où Bruxelles brusselait…” Cabarets, which disappeared 20 years ago, were a huge tradition in Brussels, and I think that this audience is still here and some of them come to our parties.
What is the ambiance like during these parties?
That depends on the party! Radio Modern are 50’s dancing parties. They always start with a 45 minute dance class. It’s always very simple so that everyone can follow along. Most people are shy, so we push them a little and generally, after the class, they dance the entire night! During these parties, there is always a small typical boudoir that everyone likes to hang out in. We also always have 3 girls dressed as flight attendants that respond to the name “modernettes” who put make-up on and fix the hair of the ladies present at the party. The Radio-A-Gogo parties are based on the 60’s. We call on gogo dancers, a singer and DJs. Last time we were lucky enough to welcome Black Elvis who was absolutely incredible! I can already announce that he will be present during the Saint-Sylvestre party. Lots of surprises every time. The Burlesque Folies are amongst a cabaret and burlesque air, obviously. The first of these took place October 19 and another one is planned for February 15 for Valentine’s Day. For these we try to change the theme each time.
What type of audience shows up?
It’s astonishing that we find a rather young and an older crowd at the same time. We often see young 20 year old girls dancing with grand-pas. I would say that the majority are between 20 and 35 years old though. It is often a family friendly atmosphere, except at the burlesque parties. In 6 years we never had to call security, never once was there a fight either.
In your opinion, does vintage have a long life ahead?
Yes, that makes 6 years that I’ve been asked this question, and my response is always the same. We always have a little bit of nostalgia, and people look for this authentic side of things that is missing elsewhere. I think that vintage will always be around.
An example of a vintage day?
In the morning I go to the flea market because it’s typically Brussels. We can find a good number of treasures there for great prices. I will go to Modes next- it’s an exceptional store where we find historical items. Also, the owners know a lot about what they sell; I can sometimes spend hours talking with them! Next, I’ll go to the Albertine library, one of the most beautiful buildings in Brussels from the 50’s. I appreciate this library also because of its magnificent view and the calm atmosphere. Next I’d go to Mademoiselle Jean, Gabriele Vintage, and I would look through record stores to close out the day.
What are your plans for Neo Retro in Brussels?
A Radio-A-Gogo party on December 31 at Tentation. Every first Thursday of the month at Bonnefooi we organize “burlesque and crooners” parties which focus on 3 artistes. We have been organizing events for about a year and a half in Brussels and every two months, Tentation opens its doors to us!