Conceptual, innovative and open-minded yet pragmatic are all words that have been used to describe the Dutch fashion industry. These laudable traits have meant that, since the mid 1990s, the country’s ready-to-wear labels have started to attract increasing international attention, with brands such as SuperTrash, Scotch & Soda, Claudia Sträter and Viktor & Rolf leading the charge. Home to two of the world’s most accomplished fashion academies, in Eindhoven and Arnhem, and a varied programme of events including Amsterdam International Fashion Week, the Arnhem Mode Biennale and the Dutch Fashion Awards, Holland is rapidly becoming one of Europe’s leading womenswear destinations.
Occupying the space between high-street and luxury labels, SuperTrash is one of the leading brands to have emerged from the Netherlands in recent years. Its contemporary collections feature everything from luxe knitwear and statement stilettos to printed dresses and denim staples. ‘In the digital era fashion is accessible to everyone, but that doesn’t mean it’s affordable for everyone,’ explains Olcay Gulsen, the brand’s owner. ‘I hope that SuperTrash bridges the gap and makes fashion a reality for more women.’
The label, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, regularly shows at Amsterdam Fashion Week and is stocked in more than 2,000 boutiques worldwide as well as having its own monobrand stores. For spring/summer 2015, the collection sees ‘street fashion and urban chic united under one roof – it’s a place where everyone’s invited and anything goes’, says Gulsen. Silhouettes are playful yet glamorous and pieces range from draped dresses and deconstructed utility jackets to feminine peplum skirts with sporty details. A fringed leather skirt – the Stella – is a standout item. ‘Dress it down with a knitted sweater or opt for high heels and a metallic top for the evening,’ Gulsen suggests.
The mix of statement pieces and wearable basics offered by SuperTrash reflects the Dutch sense of style. ‘I think Dutch women are very practical when it comes to dressing,’ says Gulsen. ‘That doesn’t mean we love comfort over style; we just know how to combine the two into one stylish look.’
Emily Hermans, the designer behind emerging womenswear label MLY agrees, describing Dutch fashion as ‘wearable, with innovation in techniques and a unique focus and concept’. MLY collections stand out thanks to their distinctive fabrics, many developed by Hermans herself, featuring eco-certified yarns and natural, biodegradable fibres: the designer is known for her artisanal approach. The result is a range of pieces that tend to be united by their strong, bold prints. ‘The typical MLY fan is a colourful person who likes to be noticed,’ Hermans concedes. ‘She likes graphic designs and recognises quality.’
The designer became interested in developing her own materials while studying at the Amsterdam Fashion Institute (AMFI). ‘The lesson was called textile styling and we had to create our own textiles from scratch,’ she explains. ‘Knitting became my passion.’ For her spring/summer 2015 collection, the designer has been in a reflective mood, taking themes, designs, colours and silhouettes from her previous collections to create a kaleidoscopic fashion collage. The end result is a multifaceted collection, simultaneously offering elegance and streetwear accents, sturdy silhouettes with delicate detailing, colourful graphic patterns and more organic designs.
Despite this diversity, the overall MLY aesthetic is typically Dutch: effortlessly wearable with just enough added edge to make it interesting. Adding to the brand’s local credentials, its collections are almost entirely produced in the Netherlands. ‘The major part of the production process takes place here,’ Hermans confirms. ‘We’re environmentally friendly and have a strong focus on keeping knowledge and factories close.’
With its almost entirely Dutch team, Claudia Sträter has become one of the country’s more recognisable womenswear labels. The brand is adept at translating international trends for a Dutch audience, while its universally high quality and eye for functionality typically attracts women with busy, active lives. Its designs have a timeless sensibility, with clean cuts and elegant lines throughout: think easily co-ordinated separates, printed daytime dresses and relaxed tailoring in an appealing palette of colours.
This focus on wearability and versatility without sacrificing style may explain why Dutch fashion brands continue to be embraced both across Europe and further afield. From the chic separates of Claudia Sträter to the luxe basics of SuperTrash, Dutch designers offer pieces that could take pride of place in any wardrobe. And as the baton is passed to the next generation of designers – who are committed to honouring this aesthetic while pushing the boundaries – the Dutch international invasion looks set to continue.