What is Dutch fashion? I guess it’s fair to say that an instant answer does not come to mind. Unlike Italy, France or the UK, Holland does not seem to have a fashion tradition as such, even though the Dutch appreciate craft and originality. It often seems that art and design are more valued within their culture than the creativity of fashion, but the overall impression I got from attending the last edition of Amsterdam’s Fashion Week is that this is about to change. The local fashion scene is active and vibrant: new designer stores open up each year while fashion magazines keep growing and developing. This is – after all – the city that brought us Fantastic Man, Blend and many other edgy titles. The newest kid on the publishing block is Mykromag, having just released their first, stylish monochrome printed issue.
The ready-to-wear collections vary from pretty and commercial to inspiring and conceptual. During five days of shows, established designers – as well as exciting new graduates – are encouraged to test their work on an international audience. Amsterdam Fashion Institute and Mode Arnhem still foster new talent and individual freedom. They are great schools that push students to find their own voice. A great example of this successful approach is Iris van Herpen, a talented designer who lives and works in Arnhem. She presented her first Couture show in Paris last January, gaining rave reviews from selected press and industry insiders. Yes, there is a future for Dutch fashion after Viktor & Rolf.
Jan Taminiau – who also happens to show his work during Paris Couture – was selected for the opening evening and presented two beautiful collections. The first was focused on his more wearable – but still high-end – ready-to-wear pieces, which were sensual and lady-like. His Haute Couture outing was the icing on the cake; with long, gothic silhouettes and reflective fabrics he developed for the occasion. There were glamorous sequins and unusual platforms, giving the models an eerie charm. Jan loves catching light with his clothes and he’s good at doing evening wear in a non-conventional way. His clever mix of handicraft and avant-garde makes him one of the most interesting Dutch designers at the moment.
On a completely different note, Bas Kosters delivered a fantastic show, where club culture met sportswear madness. Think of him as the Dutch version of Bernhard Willhelm: his clashing prints, easy shapes and strong sense of colour give his clothes a raw and pulsating energy. He even performed at the end of the show, singing along and getting slightly carried away, dragging his willing partner across the catwalk. It was a breath of fresh air and a real spectacle. With a thumping techno soundtrack and parade of cool friends walking for him, he definitely stood out from the rest.
Amongst newer talents showing this season, I was impressed with Roya Hesam‘s cuts and confident manner. Born in Afghanistan, but trained at the Fashion Institute in Amsterdam, she came up with a soft line-up of ethereal clothes in delicate tones, using lightweight fabrics and floaty shapes. Even though she was inspired by Polynesia’s nature and its striking landscapes, you could feel her cultural roots in several outfits. It was her first show since graduation and I hope we’ll get to see more of her again soon.
The progressive side of Dutch society was apparent in the Green Fashion Competition, an exciting initiative focusing on the development of sustainable designer lines. Eight finalists got to present their business plan in front of a selected jury of journalists, political figures and fashion professionals before the actual show took place. Judged on their design skills – as well as their business commitment to sustainable practices – each participant came up with an original concept. The smiling winner was Elsien Gringhuis, who left with a €25.000 cheque to help her grow her fashion line. Her aesthetics were fun and fluid, offering graceful jumpsuits and pastel tones to romantic girls.
Amsterdam Fashion Week’s strongest selling point is probably its eclecticism, appreciation of young talent and open atmosphere. I would rather like to go again next season. That’s if they want to have me, of course.