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Belgian Darling Alice on the Roof Comes to Hong Kong with Delvaux

Sep 13, 2017

Alice on the Roof

Two of Belgium’s greatest exports are in Hong Kong today: Delvaux and Alice on the Roof. The world’s oldest luxury leather goods house has brought a little bit of their home country to Hong Kong this week with their Les Miniatures Belgitude exhibition at the Landmark Atrium, which Alice on the Roof is opening tonight with an exclusive performance. After spending a year in America on exchange, Alice cold-called London Grammar and La Roux producer Tim Bran, who was immediately taken with the young talent. The rest, as they say, is history. Working with Bran, her album Higher made it to the top of the Belgian charts, and now she's making her international mark. Just 22 years old, she is quickly winning indie hearts across the world with her Bjork-esque voice, and easy, relatable style.

Alice is a natural fit for Delvaux's newest collection. Fun and quirky herself, she effortlessly matches their latest collection of seven charm-sized versions of the classic Brilliant bag, each inspired by an aspect of Belgian culture. Only 2,500 of the limited-edition bags have been produced, celebrating 'Belgitude', or the unique Belgian soul and identity. Along with Alice, the brand is also working with famed Belgian director and screenwriter Jaco Van Dormael, to create a series of videos that highlight the playful Belgian humour and wit. We spoke with her ahead of her performance about fame, dumplings and singing Carmen in the shower. 

I saw you were in Hong Kong last February, what are you most excited about on this next visit?

Well, it’s kind of crazy to get to travel to Hong Kong for the second time this year! The last time we came we saw The big Buddha and Victoria peak, and that was absolutely stunning. We also dropped  by  Tai O fishing village, but we had to rush and I didn’t taste any of that curious dried seafood. I would so love to go back there and actually try those crazy looking things!

You’ll be performing as part of Delvaux’s LANDMARK Atrium exhibition, how did you get involved with Delvaux?

A few months ago, Delvaux released a beautiful Belgian miniature collection. They asked me to do a concert at the release party in Paris. It really was a delightful celebration, and I met a lot of inspiring people. For the occasion, Delvaux offered me to become the godmother of one of those beautiful tiny bags, each related to a big city of Belgium. I chose the city of Liege because it has a Belgian waffle on it, and I just love how humorous (and mouth-watering) it is.

The Liège bag, honouring the birthplace of Belgian waffle


How would you describe your own music?

I am making pop electronic music. I’ve always listened to a lot of Scandinavian music, so I love atmospheric, dreamy songs that sort of make you travel in your own mind. My favourite moment on stage is when I’m doing quiet ballads on the piano, I think it’s a very intimate moment to share. But I also want my audience to be dancing at some point! So there are different energies in the album, and that was really fun to do.

What’s your creative process like?

I am now in the middle of the making of my second album, and I am still discovering myself everyday. I mean, writing a song is so adventurous! You never know what’s going to inspire you next or when it’s going to hit you, but it’s extremely exciting. Out of nothing comes something. I just try and stop asking myself too many questions when it comes to creating. At that particular time, it’s very important to just let yourself go and try a lot of things. To me, that’s how the magic happens.  

How did you come up with Alice on the Roof?

In 2012, when I was 17, I spent a year with a host family in Brookings, a charming little town along the Oregon Coast. As a senior at an American high school, I joined a choir and it hit me how good one can feel when singing.  So a year later, I came back to Belgium with my head full of dreams and, shaped by the American mentality that says that everything is possible, I started writing my own songs. I had to choose an artist name and remembered that when I was in Oregon, my host family used to call me ‘Miss On the roof’, the direct translation to my last name in French, Dutoit. I am such a dreamy person, so I thought that image fitted perfectly.

The past year has been a big one for you, with the release of your album and your tour - how are you handling the changes?

Actually, aside from the crazy fact that my hobby has become what I do in life, it’s pretty much the same. I have the same friends, I still love to hang out with my family, I just see them a little bit less, but I made some new great friends, like my wonderful musicians, along the way and met a lot of interesting people! But I sure never thought I would sing in Hong Kong someday!

Fame can be a double-edged sword, do you ever worry about how it might change you?

I don’t really. When people recognise me in a store or in the streets, they’re always so nice and funny. It’s a little bit weird of course, but I’ve always wanted to do a job that would somehow make people happy, and that’s still my main focus when I do a concert or when I get a little chat with those people who come to me in the street. I feel like I really know where I am and where I come from.

Alice on the Roof

Your voice has an airy, ethereal quality, but can you sing in different styles like opera, or rock?

Ohhh, I love some good rock concerts but the singing part is just not for me, I have too soft of a voice. I sometimes do imitate Carmen in my shower though…

Was there a moment when you thought, 'Everything is about to change?'

When I tasted some dumplings in Hong Kong last February, I knew my life would never be the same anymore!

What’s next for you?

I’m writing my second album, and I have quite  a few songs now. I can’t wait for it to be released and to know what people think about it! I am putting so much love into it. I guess I’ll have to wait for 2018, and I then will start touring again. How lucky am I! Thank you so much for having me in Hong Kong!

If you don’t make it to the performance, make sure to stop by the Atrium from September 13-18 to explore the world of Delvaux’s miniatures, celebrating their seven new bags honouring seven of Belgium’s cities.


In This Story: #culture /music

Story Told by

Sarah Engstrand

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